2008 Environmental Heroes
Meet five regular folks whose work keeps Maui fabulous.
(page 5 of 6)
Closing the Loop
After a disaster, people are quick to complain that nobody warned them. But rarely do we remember to thank those who do alert us, before we suffer preventable tragedies. Lloyd Loope is such a person. For nearly three decades, Loope has consistently provided Maui’s resource managers, legislators, and the public with the information necessary to protect our island’s irreplaceable natural bounty.
As Haleakala National Park’s first plant ecologist, and later as research biologist for the United States Geological Survey, Loope has lent his expertise to several of Maui’s most significant conservation success stories.
In 1980, when Loope was lured from the Everglades to Haleakala, the park’s rare and spectacular ecosystems were under constant attack from feral ungulates. “Part of my role,” says Loope, “was to provide the scientific background for getting rid of the goats.” It’s hard to imagine, now that the plan has proven so resoundingly successful, that eradicating invasive animals from Haleakala’s summit wasn’t an easy sell. Loope made the case for goats, then for pigs. His feral-pig management plan laid the groundwork for freeing the otherwise pristine Kïpahulu forest from porcine invasion. Then came rabbits; 100 of them were discovered and rapidly removed from Hosmer’s Grove on Loope’s watch. “If we hadn’t succeeded,” Loope told Hawai‘i’s U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, “the island of Maui, including the cabbage farmers in the upcountry agricultural area, would have had to deal with millions of rabbits within a few years.”
Convincing decision-makers of an issue’s urgency has been Loope’s forte. He alerted legislators to the threat of invasive species such as miconia and fire ants, supported the formation of the invasive species committees, delayed the expansion of the Kahului Airport runway until effective quarantine inspections could be employed, and most recently, stridently encouraged a ban on importing myrtle species into Hawai‘i, thereby protecting native ‘ohia forests from increasingly virulent strains of ‘ohia rust.
He certainly hasn’t done this alone. Throughout his career, Loope has hired and coached some of conservation’s brightest stars: Art Medeiros, Chuck Chimera, Forest and Kim Starr, among others. If a teacher’s worth is measured by that of his students, Loope has ample recommendation.
Chimera relates a story about working for Loope at Haleakala in the early days of miconia control: One weekend, Chuck and a friend decided to hike through the crater’s wet forest down to Hana Highway. They seriously underestimated the hike’s difficulty and spent an extra night in the forest—to the alarm of their families and National Park staff, who discussed deploying helicopters and search-and-rescue teams. When they finally emerged onto Hana Highway, Chuck called his boss to assure him they were safe and apologize for causing so much trouble. Loope listened quietly before responding, “Did you see any miconia?”
“I’ll never forget that,” says Chuck. “Realizing we were both uninjured, and that we just walked through remote native rain forest, Lloyd wanted to know if Maui’s worst weed had reached the area. That’s Lloyd to me: concerned but calm, rational, fact-based, and able to focus on the most important matter at hand.”
Chimera would like to thank his former boss for not overreacting; we would like to thank him for reacting just enough—in defense of Maui’s biodiversity.