O‘ahu’s First Legacy Forest Project Announced
The first O‘ahu Legacy Forest was announced by the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI), located at Gunstock Ranch in Lā‘ie-Mālaekahana. The initial project will span more than 500 acres of land slated for permanent reforestation. The forest will support over 600,000 newly planted Legacy Trees and be home to numerous rare and endangered species.
“This is the first Legacy Forest to feature predominantly Hawaiian milo, a rare tree known for its bright-yellow flower, long prized for its wood to make bowls, calabashes, carvings and musical instruments,” said HLRI Executive Director Jeff Dunster. “This ahupua‘a was once part of a great coastal native habitat. These lands stretched from sea level to the upper reaches of the Ko‘olau Range, and were dominated by hala, hau, kukui, koa, naio, sandalwood and milo trees.”
HLRI is working with Gunstock Ranch, a 750-acre working horse and cattle ranch, and land manager Hawai‘i Reserves Inc., to return the area to a native forest. Hawai‘i Reserves manages the property affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This reforestation project underscores our desire to beautify these lands and enhance the environment,” said Hawai‘i Reserves Inc. President R. Eric Beaver. “Our stewardship goes back to the mid-1800s, so this is a special effort, one that begins to implement a significant aspect of restoring an ahupua‘a’s ecosystem. We appreciate the working relationship with the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and our long-term tenant Gunstock Ranch, and our aligned values.”
“A low-elevation native Hawaiian forest is a unique sight,” said owner of Gunstock Ranch Greg Smith. “Imagining our horseback tours with Hawaiian Legacy Tours, we see an incredible, awe-inspiring experience for both residents and visitors. We look forward to being an integral part of restoring the land that we have been working since 1971.”
The O‘ahu Legacy Forest will be the third forest of its kind in Hawai‘i. The 700-acre Legacy Forest on Kahua Ranch announced in April 2017 will include dozens of endemic and native Hawaiian species over a contiguous mix of forest, marshland and fully vegetated volcanic soil on the western slopes of the Kohala Mountains. The original forest at Kūka‘iau Ranch along the Hāmākua Coast spans over 400,000 endemic koa, ‘ōhi‘a, māmane, naio, ko‘oko‘olau, kūkaenēnē and ‘iliahi trees on almost 1,200 acres of former pastureland.
HLRI uses state-of-the-art radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to record the growth, health, location and sponsorship details of each tree. Trees can be tracked online through HLRI’s Tree Tracker program. HLRI and sustainable forestry company HLH are working to reforest 1.3 million trees across the state—one for each person in Hawai‘i.