Hawai'i State News

$40,000 HTA grant supports Hawai‘i Forest Institute sites on Big Island and O‘ahu

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The Hawai‘i Forest Institute is continuing its forest restoration efforts through the Mahalo ʻĀina Discovery Forests Project and the Ho‘ōla Ka Makana‘ā o Ka‘ūpūlehu forest stewardship program with funding from Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority supports community-based programs that help to manage, improve, and protect Hawai‘i’s natural environment and enhance, strengthen, and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and community.

Ho’omāka’ika’i students collecting seed at Ka’ūpūlehu Dryland Forest on June 27, 2023. Photo Courtesy: Hawai‘i Forest Institute

“We are extremely grateful to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority for supporting our mission of promoting the health and productivity of Hawai‘i’s forests,” said Hawai‘i Forest Institute Executive Director Heather Simmons. “These projects ensure the kuleana of forest care is passed to the next generation in Hawai‘i and to all of those who visit our island home.”

The $40,000 grant through the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Aloha ‘Āina Program is assisting with forest restoration and education efforts at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center Discovery Forest, Pana‘ewa Zoo Discovery Forest and Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest.


These sites serve as outdoor classrooms for visitors and kamaʻāina to learn about protecting and perpetuating Hawai‘i’s forest ecosystems.

The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, located within Keauhou Ranch near Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, is part of San Diego Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program saving critically endangered Hawaiian birds from extinction. Native birds being cared for include the ‘alalā, palila, ‘akeke‘e and ‘akikiki.

The Pana‘ewa Zoo Discovery Forest, located in Hilo, features culturally significant plants that once grew in traditional farms and native forests of East Hawai‘i, including Polynesian introduced plants that arrived with voyaging canoes. The site includes Native and Agro-Forest demonstrations gardens and interpretive signage. Volunteers are helping to maintain and enhance the site.


The Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest, located in Waikīkī , demonstrates culturally significant plant and tree species that once grew near traditional shoreline villages on O‘ahu. This replication of coastal ecosystems provides habitat for Hawaiian plants, birds and invertebrate. The site has two demonstration zones, an Upland Hawaiian Forest zone featuring Native and Polynesian-introduced species and a Birds of the Montane Native Forest zone
featuring a Kīpuka Nēnē Exhibit. Hawai‘i Forest Institute hosts monthly volunteer
workdays and educational field trips for students.

Only 5% of Hawai‘i’s endangered dryland ecosystems remain and 25% of the endangered plants in the Hawaiian flora are from dryland ecosystems. The $40,000 grant through the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority Kūkulu Ola Program is helping to support the forest stewardship work at Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest and Kalaemanō Cultural Center on Hawai‘i Island.

Since 2002, cultural educators have shared stories of place, ancestral connections and natural history of these rare ecosystems. The program includes three outreach strands: Hoʻōla ka Makanaʻā, Ka Pilina Poina ʻOle and Hoʻohele Mea Lāʻau.


Hoʻōla ka Makanaʻā is an outreach and education stewardship strand that interfaces science ecology and native plant restoration, while nurturing partnerships.

Ka Pilina Poina ʻOle focuses on maintaining connections through sharing oral oration, ha‘i mo‘olelo and speaks of the history of the place and its native inhabitants from the past to present, fostering a responsibility to oneself, family, community and homeland.

Hoʻohele Mea Lāʻau integrates hands-on experiences and provides innovation, artistry and connections to place by sharing different types of lāʻau (wood) and relationships to them.

Through use of a “traveling school” in addition to on-site programing, this strand features: science and relationships to native plants; use of trees for implements; and the use of alternative common and non-native woods in place of endangered species in the construction of traditional implements.

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