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Legacy Reforestation Initiative Plants a Half Million Native Trees

February 23, 2020, 8:52 AM HST
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The 1,000-acre Ka`awaloa Hawaiian Forest Conservation Easement on the western slope of Mauna Loa is one of the latest projects proposed for inclusion in the Forest Legacy Program. DLNR photo.

The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative just hit half a million.

HRLI announced in February the planting of its 500,000th native tree in Hawai‘i. More than 1,200 acres of former pastureland on both O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island have been reclaimed and returned to native forest, a release said.

The project goes beyond planting trees, HLRI continued. It is developing entire native ecosystems, including the shrubs, flowers and grasses. Research and development advances are aiding the return of the endangered birds that historically occupied these lands. The `io (Hawaiian hawk), the pueo (Hawaiian owl) and the nene (Hawaiian goose) all have taken up residence again in the Legacy Forests.

“It’s remarkable how fast these changes are happening,” said HLRI Board Chairman Francis Wong.

In addition, the Legacy Forests are creating permanent green jobs, reducing the effects of climate change through carbon sequestration, restoring the watershed and producing the oxygen people breathe. Experts estimate that over the 50-year lifetime of a single tree, it will produce $31,250 worth of oxygen and $62,000 worth of air pollution control.

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Each tree will recycle $37,500 worth of water and prevent $31,250 of soil erosion, the release said. This data suggests that one tree will produce a societal benefit of $162,000. Given the fact that 500,000 trees have been planted in the Legacy Forests, the sponsors of these trees have collectively given the state of Hawai‘i a gift worth $81 billion, according to HLRI.

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“HLRI owes the success of this project to many great organizations — in particular, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, The Kahala Hotel & Resort, ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach and the Hawaii Convention Center,” said HLRI Executive Director Jeff Dunster. “Through these partnerships, tens of thousands of individuals have participated in the Legacy Tree program. The simple act of sponsoring a tree by countless individuals has transformed these lands. The success of these forests really belongs to all of them.”

Each Legacy Tree has a story to tell, planted and sponsored as a living legacy to honor an individual or memorialize a loved one. Each sponsored tree is individually tagged and can be tracked throughout its lifetime with a unique RFID (radio-frequency identification) number by visiting TreeTrackerTM at findmy.LegacyTrees.org.

Each time a $90 Legacy Tree is sponsored, one-third of the proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit organization of the sponsor’s choice. The Legacy Tree program supports more than 400 charities worldwide. Learn more about sponsoring your own legacy tree at LegacyTrees.org.

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