Reforestation in Hawaii

Jun 19, 2020 | General Information

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It’s always good to share news about successful efforts in Hawaii to preserve, restore and enhance the environment. The latest news is about an initiative that has returned about a half-million native trees to deforested Hawaii ranch lands over the last decade. But this unique project goes much beyond planting trees. The goal is to develop and improve entire native ecosystems, including shrubs, flowers and grasses. Research in Hawaii and elsewhere also is aiding the return of endangered birds. The `io (Hawaiian hawk), the pueo (Hawaiian owl) and the nene (Hawaiian goose) now reside in restored forests on Oahu and the Big Island.

The trees — koa, ohia, mamane, naio, milo and sandalwood — have been planted mainly on two ranches on the Big Island Hawaii and one on Oahu. On these ranches cattle pastures had replaced former native forests.

Over the years, two organizations were responsible for tree planting. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods started planting koa trees in 2010. Under their model, investors helped the company plant and manage trees in return for potential long-term financial returns from harvesting wood. The other organization, the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Project, offers donors a “legacy tree” for a $90 fee. $30 of that fee is directed to a charity selected by the donor. These seedlings are tagged with a transmitter that allows a donor to see where their tree was planted and to track its growth.

Many of us underestimate the potential benefits of planting and saving trees for reducing the effects of climate change through carbon sequestration. Experts estimate that, over the 50-year lifetime of a single tree, it produces more than $30,000 worth of oxygen and $60,000 worth of air pollution control. In addition, tens of thousands of dollars are saved by each tree’s contribution to recycling water and preventing soil erosion. Over their lifetime, the 500,000 trees planted on the Big Island and Oahu collectively will give Hawaii a “gift” estimated at more than $80 billion.