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In 2007, Ben Laws served as an intern with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife in the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, where he wrote a draft environmental assessment for the State Natural Area Reserves System. Out of this work, his M.S. thesis topic emerged. Laws’ research as a graduate student at the University of Hawaii focused on mitigating the effects of coastal erosion and run off by the removal of feral cattle, and the preservation of a native ohia forest through fencing efforts in the Kohala watershed on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Laws’ involvement in the resolution of ecological problems here in Hawai‘i quickly exposed him to the ahupua‘a, or the traditional Hawaiian mountain-to-sea paradigm of resource management. This holistic understanding of the interdependent relationship between people and their surroundings acknowledges a fundamental connection between watersheds and marine environments. These notions of interconnectedness reflect Laws’ long held belief that the coastal zone should be seen as a broad continuum—from terrestrial watersheds through coastal and nearshore habitats to the marine environment.
As a Knauss Fellow who worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Office of Habitat Conservation, Laws was able to utilize his knowledge of the ahupua‘a model of resource management while structuring interactions among resource users, environmental organizations, and governmental agencies so as to best balance preservation and protection for the future with present-day sustainable use of resources.
2525 Correa Road HIG 238 Honolulu HI, 96822