Hawai‘i Forest Institute Awarded $10K Grant

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A Big Island organization whose mission is to promote the health and productivity of Hawai‘i’s forests recently was awarded a grant that will benefit several of the nonprofit’s projects.

According to a press release, the Hawai‘i Forest Institute based in ‘Ō‘ōkala was awarded $10,000 from the Mealoha Kraus People’s Choice Award program. The program is administered through the Hawai‘i Life Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.

Site Manager Wilds Pihanui Brawner gives a planting demonstration at Kaʻūpūlehu Dryland Forest in North Kona. (Courtesy photo)

“Our forest restoration and education projects fit nicely with Hawai‘i Life Charitable Fund’s focus for 2022, Hawaiiana, perpetuating the culture, traditions and history of our first ancestors who settled these Hawaiian Islands,'” said Hawai‘i Forest Institute Executive Director Heather Simmons.

Projects the institute is working on include:

The Ho‘ola Ka Makana‘ā o Ka‘ūpūlehu project includes forest restoration and education at Kaʻūpūlehu Dryland Forest and Kalaemanō Cultural Center in North Kona. The Kaʻūpūlehu Cultural Ecology Team shares stories of place, ancestral connections and natural history of these rare dryland ecosystems, intertwining a homeland perspective into ‘āina-based learning.


The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center Discovery Forest involves outplanting native seedlings in a endemic forest canopy with koa and ‘ōhi‘a as the pioneer species. Twenty different native species have been outplanted at the Discovery Forest since 2014. KBCC Caretaker Ulumauahi Kealiʻikanakaʻole coordinates student volunteer events and inspires youth to bond with their environment through service-learning activities connecting science with culture. Birds being cared for at KBCC are the ‘alalā, palila, ‘akeke‘e and ‘akikiki.

The Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest demonstrates culturally significant plant and tree species that once grew near traditional shoreline villages of O‘ahu.  The institute recently produced a Docent Workbook Interpretive GuideNew Plant ID Pages and a Forest Friends Coloring Book featuring native animals and their habitat.  This year, Hawai‘i Forest Institute is developing “Symphony of the Hawaii Forests” educational materials for students and teachers.

The Go Native: Growing a Native Hawaiian Urban Forest includes producing a video series and a quick reference guide encouraging people to plant native and Polynesian-introduced seedlings.

Mealoha Kraus was a well-loved Hawai‘i Life broker and the Hawai‘i Life Charitable Fund’s first board chairperson. She lost her battle with breast cancer in late 2019.


Kraus was a leader in every sense of the word, according to the press release, and under her leadership, the fund raised and distributed more than $200,000 in 2018 to help with recovery efforts from the eruption of Kīlauea volcano in Puna and flooding on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu. She remains a guiding light for the fund.

Each year, agents and brokers with Hawai‘i Life, a real estate firm, collectively choose a giving focus for the Mealoha Kraus People’s Choice Award grant program. Grants are made available to eligible nonprofit organizations throughout the state with programs that align with Hawai‘i Life’s mission and giving focus for that calendar year.

For more information about the Hawai‘i Life Charitable Fund, click here.

In 2003, the Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association formed the Hawai‘i Forest Institute to help protect and conserve Hawai‘i’s forests through forest restoration, educational programs, information dissemination and support for scientific research.


For more information about the Hawai‘i Forest Institute, click here.

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