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Citizen Foresters Honored for Kailua Efforts

July 12, 2018, 9:24 AM HST (Updated July 12, 2018, 9:24 AM)
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VIDEO: Community Forestry Program. VC: DLNR

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s (DOFAW) Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program reached a major milestone on July 11, 2018.

For the last two years, a group of volunteers in Kailua on O‘ahu have been gathering information on individual trees in Kailua. They measure and map each tree and their data provides valuable information about urban trees that helps resource experts better manage these important community assets.

In recognition of the first team of Citizen Foresters, DLNR-DOFAW presented them with a DLNR & YOU Citizen Conservationist award.

The work began when DOFAW, through its Kaulunani Program and in partnership with Smart Trees Pacific contracted a study of Honolulu’s urban tree canopy and any changes it’s experiencing. Using a combination of high-resolution satellite imagery and Light Detection and Ranging data (LiDAR) the data showed an alarming decrease in urban O‘ahu’s tree canopy.

“The study showed that we lost nearly 5% of our urban tree canopy or more than 76,000 trees over the four years of data collection,” DOFAW Administrator David Smith said. “Our first citizen foresters in Kailua have been instrumental in equipping us with the kind of data that will hopefully help us reverse this downward trend.”

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VIDEO: Kailua Citizen Foresters. VC: DLNR

A group of 18 to 20 interested individuals got training at three different sessions and ultimately the Kailua group included a core team of about ten people.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to show our love for the trees that are so important not only for the ecosystem services they provide (clean air, watershed protection, etc.) but if you think about it, healthy trees in our forests and in our populated areas provide the verdant greenery that make Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i,” Tom Foye, the group’s team leader, said.

Foye accepted the citizen conservationist award on behalf of the Kailua citizen foresters.

Kaulunani is a USDA Forest Service federally funded urban forestry program. DOFAW manages it through its partnership with the non-profit Smart Trees Pacific. Other organizations and individuals that contributed to the program and training include the City and County of Honolulu Urban Forestry Division, the Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, The Outdoor Circle, Aloha Arborist Association, master gardeners, landscape architects, environmental educators and tree advocates.

Based on the work of this first team of citizen foresters, it’s estimated the monetary benefit of the trees surveyed in Kailua totals about $150,000. The Citizen Foresters program has now expanded to Honolulu and volunteers can be found mapping trees from Mānoa to Waikiki. Plans are already in the works for a third round of citizen forester training and the next location for survey’s is still under consideration.

VIDEO: Citizen Foresters. VC: DLNR

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