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The Legislature created the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to manage the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve while it is held in trust for a future Native Hawaiian sovereign entity. The KIRC uses the federal funds designated for State responsibilities in the restoration effort. The KIRC is administratively attached to the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes 6K sets forth the composition of the KIRC. One member shall be selected by the Governor of the State of Hawaiʻi from lists submitted by Native Hawaiian organizations, one member shall be a reprsentative of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one member shall be the Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources of the State of Hawaiʻi, one member shall be a representative of the County of Maui, one member shall be a member of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, and two members shall be selected by the Governor form a list submitted by the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana. The Chair of the KIRC shall be selected from among the members by the Governor.

The KIRC also maintains staff to assist it in its restoration and management of the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve.

Click on any image below to view bio.





Dawn N.S. Chang.

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Chairperson
Term expires December 31,2026

Ms. Chang is an expert on land issues and regulatory requirements. She served 14-years as Deputy Attorney General with the Hawaiʻi Office of the Attorney General-Land/Transportation Division and counsel to various State Boards and Commissions such as the Board of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resources Management, Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, Nā Ala Hele Trails and Access system, Natural Area Reserves program, and Island Burial Councils. During her tenure with the Attorney General’s Office, she litigated cases that were heard in state and federal courts.

In 2016, Ms. Chang was appointed and confirmed to the State Land Use Commission and served until 2022. She is a former social worker with Queen Liliʻuokalani Children’s Center where she was a community organizer in Waimanalo and counseled orphaned and disenfrancished Native Hawaiian children and families.

She received her law degree from the Richardson School of Law, a MA in Social Work from the University of Hawaiʻi, and a BA in sociology from the University of Hawai‘i. Ms. Chang is a member of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association and Native Hawaiian Bar Association. She has served on the boards of the Kualoa-Heʻeia Ecumenical Youth, Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation, Girl Scouts of Hawaii, Camp Mokuleʻia with the Episcopal Church, William S. Richardson School of Law Alumni Association, Waimanalo Teen Project, Hawaiʻi Youth Opera Chorus, Hoʻokano Family Land Trust, Planned Parenthood, and Pacific Islands Land Institute.

She is the former principal of Kuʻiwalu, a woman-owned, Native Hawaiian business enterprise, that assisted public and private sector clients since 2001 in engaging with communities, in particular Native Hawaiian communities, to ensure compliance with applicable Federal, state, and local regulations. Kuʻiwalu specializes in resolving culturally sensitive and contentious issues, including the work with developers and native Hawaiian families on native Hawaiian burial issues to the development of a Comprehensive Management Plan for the Science Reserve on Mauna Kea.

Ms. Chang is a trained facilitator who coordinates and manages public meetings, culturally appropriate talk story sessions, crisis management, and government relations. In 2014, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Interior, Ms. Chang facilitated 14 statewide public meetings on federal recognition. In 2016, she facilitated two conservation case sessions at the IUCN Conference held in Honolulu. As a facilitator, Ms. Chang’s role has been to design culturally sensitive community outreach processes that seek to genuinely engage the impacted communities, especially Native Hawaiians, to participate in meaningful ways in the regulatory process. She is known for her ability to be fair and objective, especially in facilitating hard discussions.

She conducted training courses in Cultural Orientation, Native Hawaiian Land Use and Native Hawaiian Rights, Native Hawaiian Burial Laws, and Ka Pa&#akai Assessments to government agencies, attorneys, realtors, developers, and community organizations. Ms. Chang is a member of ACCORD3.0 an affiliation of global mediators and facilitators tackling very difficult and challenging issues. She is a trained mediator and court arbitrator with the State Court Annexed Arbitration Program.

Benton Kealiikiamoku Pang

Native Hawaiian Organization (Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs)
Term expires June 30, 2024

Benton Kealiʻikiamoku Pang is a member of KIRC Commission as its Native Hawaiian organization representative.

Benton Kealii Pang (Kealiʻi) is a graduate of the botany department of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and received his Masterʻs and Ph.D. under previous KIRC commissioner, Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott. His doctoral dissertation studied the dry forests of Kaʻūpulehu, North Kona, Hawaiʻi and his Masterʻs research was on Hawaiian kapa fibers. Whle born in California, his geneaology stems from Lāhainā, Maui (Akiona/Pang ʻohana). He is currently the pelekikena (president) of Ke One O Kākuhihewa (Oʻahu Council for the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs) representing 23 clubs on the island of Oʻahu.

Kealiʻi's first experience on Kahoʻolawe was in 1995 as a member of the working group which drafted the first Restoration Plan (Hoʻola Hou i Ke Kino o Kanaloa-Kahoʻolawe Environmental Restoration Plan). From 1997-1999, Kealiʻi was the natural resource manager for Parsons UXB during the Navy UXO clean up project. He is currently a supervisory biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and currently resides in Pālolo, Oʻahu.

Keoni Souza

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Term expires June 30, 2027

Keoni Souza is a member of KIRC Commission as its Office of Hawaiian Affairs representative.

Keoni Souza is a dedicated professional deeply rooted in the Hawaiian community. As the Trustee-At-Large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee for Cultural Protocol and Practices, Keoni is committed to serving and advancing the rights of the Native Hawaiian people. With a multifaceted background in music, real estate, and community service, he brings a unique blend of skills to his role. As a Musician and Founder of Nā Hoa, Keoni has not only achieved national recognition, including performances at Carnegie Hall and a GRAMMY nomination but has also contributed significantly to the preservation of Hawaiian music and culture, earning multiple Nā Hoku Hanohano Awards. Beyond his professional endeavors, Keoni is an active member of cultural organizations and a dedicated family man, embodying a holistic commitment to the past, present, and future of the Native Hawaiian community.

Saumalu Maatafa

County of Maui
Term expires June 30, 2027

Saumalu Mataafa works in the County of Maui’s Department of Management and is the County's representative on the KIRC.

Before joining the KIRC, Saumalu was an analyst for the Maui County Council, specializing in housing-related topics. He also worked with the State Legislature where he helped draft policies to increase food sustainability, implement high-technology strategies, and manage infrastructure systems.

Saumalu was born in Honolulu and raised in Lahaina. After graduating from Lahainaluna High School he went on to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and his Master’s degree in Human Factors and Systems. Prior to moving back to Hawaii, he worked on systems with the Federal Aviation Administration and completed space bioscience projects at NASA, in Moffett Field, California.

He is also an alumni of the McNair Fellowship Program and the Ka Ipu Kukui Fellowship Program.

Michelle Mikiʻala Pescaia

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2025

Ms. Pescaia was raised on Molokaʻi and graduated from Kamehameha Schools Kāpalama. She later graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Language. Prior to her current position as Interpretive Park Ranger at the Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Mikiʻala was a director for a Molokaʻi summer school program and Molokaʻi site coordinator for Nā Pua Noeau, University of Hawaiʻi Hilo. She has also served as a cultural education specialist at the Bishop Museum, an instructor at the Molokaʻi extension of UH Maui College, and taught in the Punana Leo o Molokaʻi Hawaiian Immersion Preschool.

ʻĀnela Evans

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2024

Ms. Evans was raised from birth on the island of Lānaʻi. She grew up dancing hula and fostering an interest in ʻIke Hawaiʻi, ancestral knowledge. She also learned about the value of aloha ʻāina from her parents and her hānai grandparents. ʻĀnela attended Lānaʻi High and Elementary School and Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. She then attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where ʻĀnela completed coursework to receive both a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Hawaiian Studies.

While at UH Mānoa, ʻĀnela had the opportunity to participate in her first experience on Kahoʻolawe with the KIRC. She became involved shortly thereafter with the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, where, for the past 15 years, she took on various roles, including a kua, access guide, and huakaʻi coordinator. In 2013, ʻĀnela accepted an opportunity to work full-time as the Volunteer Coordinator for the KIRC. While at the KIRC, ʻĀnela greatly enjoyed learning new skills and being a part of an amazing team. She served as crew on the ʻŌhua as well as supported on-island operations for the KIRC Cultural and Revegetation programs. In 2015, ʻĀnela moved home to Lānaʻi, where she still resides and works. In 2016-2017, ʻĀnela participated as a fellow in the First Nations’ Futures Program, a partnership of Kamehameha Schools and Stanford University. ʻĀnela still dances hula as a haumana of Ka ʻā Hula O Kauanoe O Waʻahila. She also enjoys hunting and honing her skills in various crafts, such as sewing, design, and hana noʻeau Hawaiʻi.

Faith Kahale Saito

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2027

Faith Kahale Saito was born and raised in Honolulu, on the island of Oʻahu. She has 3 keiki and is currently living with her ʻohana in Kalihi Valley. Kahaleʻs first introduction to Kanaloa-Kahoʻolawe was in Fall 2002, when a good friend invited her to attend the Wehena Makahiki with the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana. As her love for the island grew, she began volunteering her time to assist the PKO with the monthly accesses. In 2009, she applied and got the position as the Cultural Resources Project Manager for the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, until she resigned in 2012. Since then, she has returned home to her one hānau in Honolulu, where she has worked and served her community as the Native Hawaiian Counselor at Honolulu Community College for the past 11 years. She continues to maintain her pilina with Kanaloa-Kahoʻolawe with the PKO and in her participation with the hui that facilitates the annual Ipu a Kāne Rain Ceremony.


Michael Nahoʻopiʻi

Executive Director

Mike has been involved with Kahoʻolawe from virtually every perspective in its recent history. A long-time Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana (PKO) member and former US Navy Officer-in-Charge of Kahoʻolawe during the conveyance of the island to the State of Hawaiʻi, he was a senior manager during the early Model Cleanup and the later Navy Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance project. Born in Honolulu, Nahoʻopiʻi graduated from the Kamehameha Schools in 1982. He received his BS in Electrical Engineering from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and was commissioned an ensign in 1986, serving as a nuclear-trained submarine officer until his assignment to Kahoʻolawe. In 1992, he received an MBA in accounting from Chaminade University. Nahoʻopiʻi is certified as a Quality Manager and Quality Engineer by the American Society for Quality, and holds the designation of Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute. He and his family reside in Kapahulu, Oʻahu.


Dean Tokishi

Ocean Resources Specialist III

Growing up on Maui, Dean graduated from Maui High School and later receiving a Bachelorʻs Degree in Marine Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. For three years he was involved in the restoration of Kahoʻolawe during the ordnance removal project. In January of 2003 he obtained a position with the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) in monitoring, managing and protecting all of the Reserves marine resources. Currently Dean serves as the KIRCʻs Ocean Resources Program Manager where he is not only given the opportunity to educate others on the importance of marine resource

Caroline Sabharwal

Ocean Resource Specialist II

After earning her BA in Biology from Denison University in 2015, Caroline moved to Maui to study marine science and conservation. While completing the Marine Option Program at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College she worked for three years as an on-call responder for the Maui Marine Turtle Stranding hotline. She has also served as a diver assist for: the UH Department of Oceanography in conjunction with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Sea Grant for their West Maui Reef Conservation Project, The Nature Conservancy for their Hawaiʻi Island reef resilience surveys, as well as the Hilo, HI based Multiscale Environmental Graphical Analysis (MEGA) lab’s photo mosaic modeling of coral reef systems.

Joining the KIRC in 2022, Caroline is both grateful and excited to be working towards restoring the kino of Kanaloa. In her words, “Kahoʻolawe sits at the intersection cultural importance, ecological revitalization and community. I feel like, at the KIRC, restoration is not only being done on a physical level, but also on a level that is, at its core, deeply human. It is a unique and powerful example of how working to revive a natural ecosystem can heal the physical environment and, in the process, rekindle a spiritual and emotional connection between us and the natural world.”

Paul Higashino

Natural Resources Specialist V

Paul has a BS in Tropical Agriculture from The University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. Paul has been with the KIRC since 1996 and is the Restoration Manager for the Restoration Program. He is responsible for the biological management for Kahoʻolawe and planning restoration activities on island. This includes planting, erosion control, planting strategies, faunal restoration, and logistics of KIRC personnel and volunteers. Previous work history included working for The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi, Maui Preserves as Field Naturalist and Assistant Preserves Manager, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Research Division as a Research Associate, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Biological Technician, U.S. Forest Service, Dept. of Agriculture as a Field Technician, The University of Hawaiʻi, Department of Botany as a Lab Technician, and a Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi as Field Biologist and Field Assistant.

Lyman Abbott

Natural Resources Specialist III

Lyman has a BA in Geology from the University of Hawaii and a MS in Forestry from Humboldt State University where he worked at Redwood National Park. He also surveyed the Natural Area Reserve System in Hawaii, mapped rare Hawaiian plants in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Puʻu Honua o Honaunau, Kaloko-Honokohau and Puʻu Kohola on the Kona Coast. He has been studying Native Hawaiian Ecosystems since 1987 and has been with the KIRC for 11 years. He has been the KIRC Project Manager for the Department of Health, Clean Water Branch grants since 2003.

Jamie Bruch

Natural Resources Specialist III

Jamie received a Dual BA/BS degree from The Evergreen State College in 1995 focusing in Environmental Science. After graduation he spent 6 years on the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project as Research Associate. He was an integral part of the methodology development and safe translocations of Hawaiian Honeycreepers using both helicopters and carrying cases. He worked for the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington State as a Marbled Murrelet surveyor, and was employed with the Maui Invasive Species Committee as Field Supervisor before coming to the KIRC in 2003. His resume includes trapping experience with cats, rats and mongoose and general predator control as well as an extensive ornithology background. At the KIRC he helped design the erosion control, planting and irrigation system while implementing two federal grants from the Department of Health as Project Assistant. Recently Jamie has organized the Kahoʻolawe Island Faunal Restoration Working Group and was the Project Manager of a feral cat ecology grant with the USFWS.

Lopaka White

Maintenance and Vessel Operator

Born on the island of Oʻahu and raised on Maui, Lopaka is a Class of 2000 graduate of King Kekaulike High School.

Growing up on Maui being surrounded and fascinated by the ocean, along with the positive influences of many mentors over the years has helped Lopaka to develop the skills to be a driven leader with a passion for protecting Hawaii’s natural resources- both cultural and physical. The Canoe is what first brought Lopaka to Kahoʻolawe with the Kamaliʻi program of Hawaiian Canoe Club as a teenager. Upon graduating high school and after a short stint in the hotel industry, Lopaka decided to apply for a job on Kahoʻolawe during the UXO cleanup project. During his early years on Kahoʻolawe, working for Parsons Infrastructure & Technology, he spent time in the field performing sub-surface detection of UXO (unexploded ordnance) using metal detectors, assisting EOD’s and their excavation teams with the detection, excavation and removal of UXO; as well as assuring quality control of geophysical detection work performed in the field as a Geophysicist’s Assistant. Currently Lopaka is the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission’s Maintenance & Vessel Operator. As an Access Guide and previous restoration project manager, he have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to manage and lead thousands of volunteers in the faunal restoration and re-vegetative efforts of a 45-square mile project site over the course of his tenure with the KIRC.

Grant Thompson

KIR Specialist III

Grant Thompson joined the KIRC in 2008. Born and raised on South Africa’s east coast, Grant brings to the job a broad spectrum of skills drawn from his time in the South African Army as a “Sapper”, which include expertise in operating small boats, generators, wastewater management, demolition operations, and landmine detection. His boating skills were refined while working on multiple vessel platforms and crews, including the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute), a boat-based response crew which assisted mariners in distress off the coast of Southern Africa. Mr. Thompson also worked for three years with the Makani Olu, an educational three-masted 96-foot schooner, based on Oahu that works with Hawaiian youth.

During his time with the KIRC, Grant has completed his Master Mariner’s Credential as Captain and helped to refine the KIRC’s unique boating operations of transporting personnel and cargo, including vehicles and bulk fuel, to Kahoʻolawe; a task with many complexities including the challenge of unloading cargo during beach landings, as the island has no dock. While living in Maui Mr. Thompson has also volunteered on several environmental projects including rebuilding fishponds and loʻi, restoring sand dunes and Hawaiian Stilt habitats, and farming taro and other native crops.

Cassie Smith

Volunteer Coordinator

Cassie "Hōkūikekai” Smith joined the KIRC as Volunteer Coordinator in January 2016. Raised on the island of Oʻahu before moving to Kīhei, Maui at 13, Cassie’s first volunteer trip to Kahoʻolawe (at age 14) set in motion her vocation to learn about mālama ʻāina. She has a degree in Hawaiian Language from UH Mānoa and spent 2 years with KUPU’s HYCC internship program. Outside of the KIRC she assists with aloha ʻāina causes and perpetuates local culture through hula and other community activities.

Ashley Razo

Public Information Specialist

Ashley earned her BS in Business Administration from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013. After graduation, Ashley spent 9 years working in the private sector in IT consulting, media & sales, and event management.

Ashley worked as a Field Marketing Operations Manager with Interpublic Group (IPG), the fifth-largest advertising agency group worldwide and with a major consumer packaged goods brand; KIND Snacks in Chicago. One of her biggest accomplishments in her tenure was hiring and training a field staff of 85 across Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Upon her move to Maui, she made a career shift and completed a 2019 permaculture internship at Hale Akua Garden Farm in Haiku. This was the beginning of her career working in tropical agriculture and animal husbandry. Since 2019, Ashley went on to work for a coffee farm in Olinda and a garden design & landscape company in Kula.

Ashley's first time on Kahoʻolawe in 2021 as a volunteer impacted her view on the islands as a whole and showed her how to educate her community on conservation and restoration. Her past experience in the field has prepared her for working and educating the public at large on Maui and on Kahoʻolawe. She is honored to be part of the KIRC, their restoration initiatives and to further grow the KIRC's impact.

Matthew Hatakeyama

Administrative Officer

Matt comes to the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission via a 20-year career in the Travel and Hospitality Industry. Born and raised in Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island, Matt’s first adventure was graduating from Kamehameha Schools Kapalama in 1994. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, followed by an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2003. In 2014 Matt, wife Reene and 3 keiki (children) moved home to Hawaii. Matt loves spending time with ohana (family) at the beach, watching college football and tracing his Hawaiian ancestry.

Carmela Noneza

GIS/LAN Specialist

With an extensive background in CAD, Land Surveying and Network Administration, Carmela has 21 years of military Ground Radio Communications experience and is a retired veteran with the Air National Guard. Prior to joining the KIRC team in 2005, Carmela was a Land Survey Supervisor during the 10-year UXO (unexploded ordnance)cleanup project on Kahoʻolawe.

Janeece Beauchamp

Administrative Specialist III

Born and raised on Maui and of Native Hawaiian descent, Janeece attended Baldwin High School before studying business management and communications at the former Maui Community College. Prior to joining us at the KIRC, she spent ten years with Hardware Lumber Maui as assistant office manager and a cabinet designer, five years with Four Seasons Resort Maui as beach concierge and pool attendant and at Navatek as Hawaiian Culture Director. Janeece has volunteered as team mom for club wrestling (Maui Tiger Style) for Baldwin HS, where her children attend, and with Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Janeece is "extremely excited to be a part of this amazing program that helps the community to preserve the Hawaiian culture."

Terri Gavagan

Commission Coordinator

Terri is the KIRCʻs full-time staff member overseeing the KIRC archives. She has a BA and a MA in Anthropology. Her responsibilities include the continuation of KIRC Archives organization, determination of appropriate materials needed to organize and document archive contents including database software, scanners and other materials.

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