Protecting the Endangered
PMRF continues to fight for the species on Kauai
Located on the lush and quiet island of Kauai is the world's largest instrumented multi-environmental range, Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (PMRF). PMRF simultaneously supports surface, subsurface, air and space training and testing operations.
Kauai, the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, is known for its tropical wilderness and wildlife, but unlike the hustle and bustle of city life that can be found on its close neighbor, Oahu, life on Kauai is slower, more rural, more laidback. It's a feature that many of its inhabitants value and might argue makes Kauai so unique. Despite this Kauai is still continually changing. Human development is increasing on the quiet island, and unfortunately, has been slowly impacting the natural wildlife on this island. For this reason, those who call Kauai home, including those who live and work at PMRF, want to protect the natural environment. PMRF has been recognized by state legislatures, the local community and the Navy for its environmental conservation efforts.
This year, the military installation has been kicking it up a notch, especially when it comes to the Newell's Shearwaters, an endangered seabird.
"Kauai is changing all the time," said Tom Savre, PMRF environmental specialist with Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii. "There are more people and more development, and over time it has brought some challenges in trying to protect the native wildlife."
On Kauai alone, one can find three different species of shearwaters, but the Newell's Shearwater's population specifically has fared the worst in recent years. Nesting in the most remote mountains and ridges of Kauai, Newell's Shearwaters are pelagic sea birds, meaning they spend most of their lives at sea, only flying over land in total darkness. Unfortunately, there is not enough known about these mysterious birds to understand for sure why this is, but according to Savre, it could be to avoid predators or it could be to maximize their time at sea, but what is known is the adults come in after dark and they leave in the morning before light, and similarly the young fledglings will fly out to sea for the first time ever in total darkness. Armed with only their inborn navigational skills, the young shearwaters use the stars and moon to find their way to the sea.
"Unfortunately, human development, with all of our artificial lighting, has caused these young fledgling birds to be confused when they are trying to fly to the ocean for the first time ever," said Savre. "All they have is a mental map of the stars and these lights confuse things, and that's the origin for the shearwater fallout problem in Kauai."