Scott Fisher, Ph.D., Associate Executive Director of Conservation for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust for discussion about Ecological Restoration: Healing the land, healing a community – a lesson from Hawaii.
As humans wrestle with the impacts of our actions and lifestyle on global ecosystems, we have begun to look for ways to alter our relationship with the earth, and to heal degraded ecosystems. Island ecosystems are notoriously fragile, and the islands of Hawai`i are certainly no exception. For the past 17 years, the staff of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT) has been working to heal the impacts of habitat loss and ecological degradation at its 277-acre Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. While the specific intention of the work at the Waihe’e Refuge has been to restore ecosystems for the benefit of native species, healing the land has an added benefit of pointing the way to a thriving, sustainable community. With over 2,000 students visiting the Refuge annually, hundreds of volunteers providing thousands of hours of ecological restoration work, and the land trust’s determined effort to connect people to the land, the benefits of restoring the land have broadened into a type of community healing best expressed in the Hawaiian proverb (‘olelo no’eau): I ola ‘oe, i ola kakou no (Through your thriving, all of us, in turn, thrive).
Scott grew up in Kula, and at age 17 enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After his discharge, he studied at Colorado State University. Scott’s graduate work includes an M.A. in Peace Studies with a concentration in Native Hawaiian Strategies of Peacemaking and Reconciliation. His PhD. explored the dynamics of post-conflict recovery in a civil war on the island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, with a particular emphasis on how communities make wise decisions about conflicts over natural resources. Scott also holds a graduate certificate in ecological restoration from the University of Idaho. He is also currently working on a degree in Sustainable Agriculture.
Since 2003 Scott has worked for the Maui Coastal Land Trust, first as a project manager at the land trust’s 277-acre Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge and is now the Chief Conservation Officer for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. In this capacity he has been involved in all aspects of ecological restoration work on land trust properties. In 2017 Scott began a three-year research fellowship in Paleoecology with the University of Leicester in England. Since 2005, Scott has also served on the Maui/Lana’i Island Burial Council, a state board tasked with the responsibility of protecting Iwi kupuna (Native Hawaiian remains). More recently Scott has been consulting with the US Forest Service on a mangrove restoration project in western Madagascar. In his free time, Scott enjoys working at his 4-acre Breadfruit, Coconut and Banana farm in Waikapu, Maui.
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