David Y.Ige | DLNR Press Release: Director of Ho’oulu Aina Receives National Recognition

DLNR Press Release: Director of Ho’oulu Aina Receives National Recognition

Published on Sep 21, 2022 in Latest news from the department, Press room

(HONOLULU) – Nestled deep in the Kalihi Valley, Ho’oulu ‘Āina staff and volunteers work to harvest locally grown plants for food and indigenous medicine.

Operating under a recently extended 35-year lease administered by the DLNR Division of State Parks, Ho’oulu ‘Āina is run by Puni Jackson. She is described as a passionate and dedicated Indigenous woman, community leader and health practitioner who understands and teaches how the health of our forests and the health of our communities are inextricably linked, as a relationship of kinship.

This morning, the National Association of State Foresters presented Jackson with its annual leadership award. She was nominated by Heather McMillen, an urban and community forester with DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).

“Puni has a deep understanding of the essential role of forests in people’s lives and the holistic nature of urban and community forestry,” McMillen wrote in her nomination. “Ho’oulu’ Āina’s innovative programming builds resilience in Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community members, while opening up a learning and healing environment for all. Her compassion and commitment to growing the health of people together people and forests are unsurpassed,” McMillen said.

Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV) is the organizational home of Ho’oulu’ Āina. KKV is the only community health center in the country to have a 100-acre nature reserve as a healing site.

Ho’oulu ‘Āina offers a range of community and cultural programs that connect people to family, culture, community and the land. McMillen commented, “Puni is leading these efforts in the forest. She was instrumental in establishing the organization as a healing haven for community members and for Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, in a space where native forest restoration and urban agroforestry thrive, while like people.

Reacting to the Foresters award, Jackson said, “It’s surprising. I don’t necessarily see our work as forestry all the time. I see him as part of the community. I consider myself a community leader and a cultural leader and the forest is one of them.

She explains that the national recognition of Ho’oulu ‘Āina is exciting. “I have been part of the national forest conversation for the past two decades and seeing our work celebrated…work that speaks to Indigenous voice, Indigenous practice and specific to Indigenous peoples and their practices on the land, is really important. step forward,” Jackson said.

Ho’oulu ‘Āina regularly hosts hundreds of volunteers to help with gardening, harvesting and restoring the forest, as the 100 acres stretch from the bottom of the valley to the top of the ridge. McMillen concluded, “KKV and Ho’oulu ‘Āina are valued partners for DOFAW and we are very grateful for this partnership.


(All images/videos courtesy of DLNR)

HD Video – Ho’oulu ‘Āina (Sep 12, 2022):


Photographs – Ho’oulu ‘Āina (Sep 12, 2022):


Media Contact:

Dan Denison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources

(808) 587-0396

[email protected]

James C. Tibbs