Categorized | Environment, Featured

Campaign to plant 500,000 native trees kicks off

Kukaiau Ranch (Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A reception Wednesday evening marked the start of a partnership that aims to plant 500,000 native trees on a Big Island ranch.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has joined with Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods in planting a cornucopia of “legacy” koa trees on 2,700 acres of Kukaiau Ranch near Paauilo.

This initiative is part of global effort of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to plant 10 million trees around the world, in recognition of the company’s 50th birthday.

These trees, to be planted over the next few years, will significantly contribute to the reforestation of this depleted species. As ‘legacy’ trees, they will not be harvested, and will live out their natural life in the forest.

Earl Regidor, manager of the resort’s Hawaiian Cultural Center, conducted a blessing at Wednesday evening’s event, noting koa trees played an important role in traditional Hawaiian culture – from trapping moisture to sheltering birds to serving as raw material for canoes.

“This is where the planting starts,” he said. “This is where it all begins.”

Earl Regidor leads the blessing to kick off the reforestation campaign. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Resort Marketing Director Ciro Tacinelli presented a check that will purchase 2,500 trees to Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH).

“This is the day we formally begin our partnership,” he said. “It’s a logical fit. This is about respect, culture and the environment.”

Located 34 miles north of Hilo above historic Umikoa Village, the 2,700 acre sustainable forest was once home to the private koa forest of King Kamehameha I, marking a historic and sacred place on the island. The Nature Conservancy Hawaii currently is leasing the land from the DeLuz family.

“This important initiative shows our continued commitment to doing the right thing,” said Robert Whitfield, general manager of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. “Our partnership will allow our employees, our guests and clients to be a part of this effort in bettering our environment andIsland in particular, whether by planting one tree, or a forest of trees.”

Interested guests can visit the on-property learning kiosk, to meet with a representative of HLH, learn the details of the program and plant their seedling into a small tray.

Guests will receive a certificate with a unique code, allowing them to follow their tree via GPS signal, once it is planted in the forest.

Participation fee is $40 per tree, which goes toward the planting and care of their koa seedling through the partnership with Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, which supports The Nature Conservancy with a $1 contribution per tree sponsorship to support global reforestation.

Michael Wilson, HLH sales director, said the campaign is a great example of working together. The Nature Conservancy purchases land; HLH plants the trees; and organizations like Four Seasons help connect the project to the people.

“If people can be involved at this level, they own a part of the forest and feel connected to it,” he said. “People want koa – furniture, ukuleles, bowls, pens, picture frames, whatever. But it’s a guilty purchase. They think a tree had to be cut down to make this piece of furniture.”

Sponsoring a tree through a program like this takes away the guilt and spurs the reforestation.

“The best part is people can actually visit their tree,” Wilson said. “You really can go up to the ranch and hug your own tree.”

Wilson said HLH is open to partnering with any community group. For example, the Boy Scouts Aloha Council sell trees through HLH and receive a portion of the sales.

Wilson said contributions to The Nature Conservancy will help the organization purchase land, with HLH handling the reforestation project.

“With the contributions we can move forward that process. The idea is for our reforesting efforts to be used in partnerships with land owners whether privately or publicly. Once the land becomes available we are able to go in and begin the restoration of troubled forests,” he said. “This is a model that can be used anywhere there is the need to help rejuvenate or rest orate a once thriving ecosystem.”

The Nature Conservancy Hawaii has been involved in conserving, preserving and reforesting projects in the state for three decades.

“Hawaii has lost over half of its native forests since human contact,” said John Henshaw, of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii. “This partnership between Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods is a step in the right direction to return the Hawaiian Forest to its former abundance.”

Henshaw said Hawaii is home to more than 100 native species, but very few visitors or residents take the opportunity to explore the island’s forests.

“More than 90 percent of our visitors never even see the forest,” he said, mostly because they spend their time facing the ocean and don’t turn around and look up.

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John Henshaw, of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, talks about koa trees. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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