Maui Resident Receives National Sierra Club Award
SAN FRANCISCO A long-time environmental activist from Maui will be among those
receiving national awards from the Sierra Club this year.
Mary Evanson of Makawao will be the first recipient of the One Club Award, a new award
created by the Sierra Club to recognize people who use outings as a way of protecting
public lands and instilling an interest in conservation. The award includes a $1,000 prize
funded by Sierra Club member Dr. Joseph Barbosa of Minnesota. The award will be officially
announced at the Sierra Club Annual Meeting in San Francisco Sept. 24.
Evanson has spearheaded dozens of successful conservation campaigns on Maui over the
past 20 years through organizing hikes, service trips, educational forums and tours of
threatened areas. She also has held numerous leadership positions in the Sierra Club,
including Maui Group Chair, Maui Group Outings Chair, Maui Group Service Outings Chair,
Maui Group Conservation Chair, and Maui delegate to Hawaii Chapter Executive Committee.
"All these activities reflect Evansons mission in life: to get people out to
see places firsthand," said Lucienne deNaie, the Hawaii Chapter member who nominated
Evanson for the One Club award.
Evanson has previously received numerous awards for her work, including Outstanding
Volunteer at Haleakala National Park, the Circle of Women Award and the Senior Volunteer
Award from the County of Maui, Conservationist of the Year Award from the Maui Group of
the Sierra Club, and the Ohia Award from the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club. In 1995
the Maui News named her one of its "People who made a difference in
A lifelong hiker, Evanson was born in Honolulu and raised in rural Oahu. She
moved to Maui in the late 1970s after raising four children and a career as a teacher. She
became a Sierra Club member, activist and hike leader shortly after settling in to her new
Evansons first conservation battle found her helping the remote Hawaiian village
of Keanae where local taro growers water supply was threatened by a proposed
hydroelectric project planned for Wailuku Iki stream, lifeblood of the communitys
taro farms. Evanson worked with local community leaders and helped educate local
policymakers. The project was subsequently shelved.
The list of Evansons conservation accomplishments in Maui is legion. She helped
in efforts to preserve Kealia wetlands as a National Wildlife Sanctuary. She also helped
turn back plans for an underwater amusement park along sensitive shoreline reefs and stop
the exploitation of one of Mauis last wild streams. Evanson lobbied state
authorities to set policies for controlling invasive, imported grazing animals and
guarantee public access to historic and cultural sites. She has been a long-time advocate
for preservation of Hawaiis rainforests and their unique plant and bird life.
Evanson also was instrumental in organizing a summer-long series of educational hikes
to Mauis little-known watershed areas. This was the first opportunity for most
participants to understand the complex web of life that creates a healthy watershed. This
series is very popular and has been repeated many times over the past 10 years.
When education and persuasion were not enough to save a treasured site, Evanson has
joined with others in legal challenges.
In 1996 a Maui county park plan included an unneeded road through an area known for
rare geologic features. Evanson took planners for site visits, gathered support and filed
suit. The county backed down and deleted the road.
Evanson has been a key player in the current struggle over expansion of Mauis
airport to allow 747s and other international flights. Evanson and other activists fear
that expansion and international flights will introduce alien pests that will destroy the
countless species of native plants, birds and insects that live in nearby Haleakala
Evanson has organized Sierra Club Service Outings to Haleakala National Park for 20
years and in 1997 founded the Friends of Haleakala National Park. She currently serves as
the groups chair.
Since the Friends group formed, the park (one of the nations 10 most visited
national parks and Mauis top natural tourist attraction) has seen its boundaries
expand for the first time in nearly 20 years. Fifteen hundred acres of pristine East Maui
rainforest rich with cultural sites and biological flora and fauna were added to the park
in 1999, along with a lovely coastal preserve adjacent to the parks popular
Oheo Gulch campground. More acquisitions are planned for the next few years, and
Evanson continues to organize support letters, field visits and service outings to the new
park lands as well as writing articles and sponsoring public meetings.
Evanson and other Friends of Haleakala members have recently voiced support for native
Hawaiian leaders concerned about a proliferation of telecommunication towers proposed
along a pristine volcanic trail just outside the National Park boundaries.
One of Evansons greatest dreams still remains unrealized. In the late 1980s, as a
Sierra Club board member, she helped form a coalition called SPAM (State Park @ Makena).
This coalition was fighting an out-of-control resort boom along Mauis broad south
shore beaches. The coalitions plan was to encourage the state to implement its
Makena-LaPerouse State Park Plan. This was a visionary idea for a wilderness park along
the rugged south Maui coastline from Puuolai, Makena, nine miles down the
undeveloped shore. The plan included the lava coves south of La Perouse Bay (a legendary
site to ancient Hawaiians and famous today for its whales and dolphins).
After years of lobbying and fundraising, the state purchased one small portion of this
nine-mile stretch and created Makena State Park, commonly known as "Big Beach."
Evanson is urging state officials to reactivate the vision and implement the entire
nine-mile Makena-LaPerouse State Park.
The Maui Group of the Sierra Club will use the $1,000 from Evansons award to
create educational materials to support Evanson and other SPAM activists.
The Sierra Club, which was founded in 1892 by John Muir, is the countrys oldest
and largest grassroots environmental organization. It currently has nearly 600,000
members. For more information on the Maui Group and its activities, call (808) 573-3454.