KS fosters stewardship agreements focusing on koa,  'iliahi forests

Jul. 29, 2019

Contributed by Crystal Kua

Through the use of innovative management strategies, Kamehameha Schools is cultivating the necessary resources to restore and maintain vital ecosystems for generations to come.

KS has entered into innovative agreements aimed at developing new financial and ecological models to support its stewardship of thousands of acres of koa and ‘iliahi (sandalwood) forests on the west side of Hawai‘i island.

“Sustaining a steady source of capital to finance stewardship activities is often challenging,” KS land asset manager Kamakani Dancil said.

In separate agreements, KS is working with:

• Paniolo Tonewoods, LLC, (PT) a collaboration of Taylor Guitars and Pacific Rim Tonewoods, to manage 1,300 acres ma uka of the Hōnaunau Forest Reserve. The pilot project, based on the exchange of goods for services known as “stewardship contracting,” is designed to demonstrate the concept of conservation offsetting costs of stewardship. Under the license terms, PT’s partner, Forest Solutions, Inc., is providing restoration services in exchange for a fixed number of selected koa trees to be harvested under KS-determined standards. The value of the harvested timber removed by PT as part of the project will offset the costs of the conservation services. The final product of the processed koa wood is high-quality guitars.

• Hāloa ‘Āina, a forestry and education organization and Native Hawaiian family-owned business, is dedicated to restoring the native dryland forest. Under a five-year license, the project will improve the native ecosystem on formerly degraded agricultural lands consisting of remnant ʻiliahi/māmane forest adjacent to the Lupea Conservation Area. Revenues generated from the harvest of the dead and senescent sandalwood trees are directly reinvested in the subject property with the focus of conservation management. Hāloa ‘Āina will market products made from the sandalwood material (oil, dust, etc.) and allocate a percentage of gross sales to KS.

These projects were the subject of a discussion entitled “Native Forestry: A New Model for Sustaining Conservation” held earlier this month at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference.

“Paniolo Tonewoods is committed to restoring native forests throughout Hawai‘i. We're honored to be working with KS, and to be learning from its long experience with koa. We’re proud to be part of a project that strikes a healthy balance between economics, culture, and ecology,” said Steve McMinn, founder of Pacific Rim Tonewoods, one of the partners in the Paniolo Tonewoods collaboration.

“Hāloa ‘Āina means ‘long breath of the land.’ If people take care of the ‘Āina, the ‘Āina will take care of our People.” said Wade Lee, Managing Member of Hāloa ‘Āina.

KS West Hawai‘i Regional Director Kaimana Barcarse said that these innovative approaches to managing ‘āina also align with KS’ educational mission and vision toward building thriving communities.

“Stewarding ‘āina to be healthy and functioning provides the foundation of a strong Native Hawaiian identity that instills confidence and resiliency in our learners and our people,” Barcarse said. “Ma ka lumi papa e hoʻolauna ʻia ai ka haʻawina, ma ka ʻāina e paʻa ia haʻawina, he ʻike. In the classroom, lessons are introduced. On the ʻāina, those lessons become knowledge.”

Reinvestment of revenue into the forest from these projects will support conservation efforts such as the installation of fencing to protect old growth forests while controlling invasive species and creating firebreaks to prevent wild fires from destroying native plants and endangered species.

The agreements are designed to improve degraded former pasture lands and reverse the decline through selective harvest and reinvestment of resources to improve forest regeneration. Along with planting native species and controlling weeds, these actions will help to enhance habitat for native plant and bird species.

“Kamehameha Schools is enthusiastic about working towards a new model of conservation management that allows us to increase our conservation footprint in ma uka Kona,” Dancil said.

With Hualālai as the backdrop, a view of the ‘iliahi forest on KS lands in ma uka Kona that is the focus of an innovative stewardship agreement with Hāloa ‘Āina.

A fence protects keiki koa trees that have begun to regenerate following selective harvest of koa on Pauahi ‘āina in ma uka Hōnaunau as part of an innovative stewardship agreement with Paniolo Tonewoods, LLC.