After a brief Hawaiian pule (prayer, incantation and blessing), 15 of us divided up into 4 groups lead by those more experienced in the forest. We planted a total of 128 more ‘ohe seedlings in various locations within the Keau’ohana restoration site. By increasing the density of our out-plantings, we hope to be more successful in re-establishing shade lost due to Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death. It was a wet day in the rainforest, but people were happy to be present and planting; we achieved our goal within a few hours of time accruing 45 total volunteer hours. Spring 2021 is off to a good start! Mahalo all for your kind encouragement and support.
Aloha Keau’ohana Family!
As many of you know, Hawaii Environmental Restoration’s (HER) primary project focuses on the restoration and preservation of Keau’ohana State Forest Reserve. Since June of 2014, Keau’ohana has undergone an intensive restoration process that has focused on the control of invasive plant species, and the planting of native species on ~30 acres of the most biodiverse portion of the reserve. Our crew has continued weekly restoration efforts toward preserving this precious resource through a good number of environmental and socio-economic challenges (Hurricane Iselle, Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death, 2018 Lava Event, and now COVID).
Although HER education outreach was largely compromised due to the pandemic, Keau’ohana rainforest received consistent restoration attention over the year 2020. HER efforts averaged four active crew members working a 7 hour day per week; work days were often supported by one or two volunteer members as well. Despite loss of State funding, our functions were possible this year thanks to HER reserved funds from a generous past donation by Ann Kobsa’s of Malama O Puna, and $5,000 contributed from the Atherton Foundation. This year has focused on the fourth systematic pass of the entire 30 acre restoration site, beginning with the east swath which had not been done since the pre-lava 2018 event. It has been a slow and grueling process of recovery, but we are now three-quarters complete. This achievement does not include numerous additional passes conducted in the volunteer loops (5 acres) as well as regular maintenance of the 2 mile trail system. A total of 584 trees were planted in Keau’ohana this year! Volunteer hours were a record low of 219 due to Covid-19 limitations. And most importantly, enclosures now surround the natural colonies of endangered ha’iwale at the heart of Keau’ohana thanks to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Prior to the pandemic, special events were coordinated in the forest with Hawaii Community College and the University of Hilo. Outreach events in the community included a presentation and tabling at a sustainability event held at the Imiloa Astronomy Center, and presentations at the Niaulani Art Center in Volcano village. HER is looking forward to becoming more active in the community again. In the mean time outreach coordinator Kelly Collins, and President Jaya Dupuis have been working on developing the basic infrastructure to provide a growing number of schools and organizations with a virtual education option in 2021. Our extended goal is to help educate people about general Hawai’i plant issues and solutions, and how they could help support the lowland environment by making wise plant choices for sustainable living in their own lives. Technical assistant James Elston, has worked hard as well on website improvements to help us better engage with you, our beloved supporters! Our work is also supported by Jim Buck (CPA) who does an excellent job keeping our finances transparent and in order. Again, we thank each and every one of you for your unique contributions and support to our fundamental mission and morale. We could not thrive without your care! Please consider continuing to hold our hand through these troubled times…Your membership is precious to our forest ohana!
Solstice tree planting was a delightful success in Keau’ohana on December 21st. The sun shone brightly in light of a new year, as 20 of us separated into groups of 5 to plant a total of 192 ‘ohe seedlings along the west and connecting trails. We are most grateful to all 16 enthusiastic forest volunteers for helping us in rebuilding a strong future canopy layer to protect a delicate understory of native biodiversity.
Events like this bring much joy to our hearts; we feel inspired to embark upon the new year with our lovely Keau’ohana forest ohana. We hope that perhaps now our quarterly volunteer events may resume along with the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. We do hope to see all in the forest again, and again!
We will let you know about the next opportunity near spring Equinox, if all goes well!
The beginning of fall was marked by abundant rain a couple of weeks ago! We seized the moment to plant 112 native ‘ohe keiki in the ground! We now await with anticipation the next spell of rain to plant 128 more… Although most of our weekly efforts consist of invasive species control to help protect the native flora in Keau’ohana, planting such canopy trees is an important part of re-establishing the lost shade due to Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death! Our strategy has shifted to include higher densities of these seedlings in the most promising regions of the restoration site for a higher success rate.
A big thank you to Ann Kobsa from Malama O Puna, for the propagation and donation of these beautiful seedlings! Ann has been one of our greatest supporters of Keau’ohana Rainforest from the project’s onset in 2014. Her dedication to Hawaii’s native plant community is an inspiration to so many!
We also wish to offer a warm welcome and thanks to 6 new members of Hawaii Environmental Restoration (HER); it is an honor to have you on board. Your contributions are so important to our work! Mahalo Nui Loa!!!
Although special events in the forest, and in schools or public venues, have been suspended due to COVID-19, Restoration of Keau’ohana has continued on a weekly basis throughout the summer months. We continue to progress in our first and foremost goal, to keep Keau’ohana going despite endless environmental, social and economic challenges.
Unfortunately, the Hawai’i State Legislature did not appropriate funding for operating and capital improvement project grants-in aid due to the State’s changing financial circumstances. This has been our largest source of support in the past half dozen years of environmental efforts, therefore it is a great loss. The Dislocated Worker Disaster Grant which we were much looking forward to was also reneged for similar reasons. Thankfully, the Atherton Foundation offered a moderate award, which should get us through the year. Hawaii Environmental Restoration (HER) is now preparing to focus on coordinating with other entities around volunteer support options for the forest, and to lessen our need for financial aid. Grant writing is in order as well; we are moving forward to expand our reaches, and perhaps determine possible sponsors.
In spite of the tremendous difficulties we are being faced with, the current pandemic forces some good changes upon our world in relationship to the earthly environment. HER will be focused on developing online educational sessions for people and schools regarding ways to help support our localized lowland environment here in Hawai’i. This will include a familiarization of the plant species to be most aware of both native, and invasive. In looking at what it means to malama O ka ‘aina, to tend the land, with self-sustaining intention, we will also clarify Polynesian introductions, and other important edible plant species to include in home gardens.
Hurricane Iselle hit the Keau’ohana forest hard in 2014, and was then followed by Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death (ROD). Feral pig activity has since the lava event of 2018 increased damages to the forest floor, much to the dismay of Keau’ohana’s hard working crew members. Although the understory is going strong in much of the forest site thanks to intensive restoration efforts which began in 2014, natural disasters, and the recent Covid-19, continue to challenge the efforts. Protecting the largest remaining lowland rainforest below 1,000 feet in Hawai’i is now more important than ever.
The Keau’ohana native forest restoration site affords the most important remaining habitat for the endangered ha’iwale (Cyrtandra nanawalensis)! Natural clusters of ha’iwale, which were previously located in Puna and Hilo Districts, and which are restricted to these regions, have been dwindling alarmingly fast, along with the continued collapse of our precious native environment.
In May of 2020, the Natural Areas Reserves (NARS)/ Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), deployed materials for the fencing of numerous natural clusters of the endangered ha’iwale in the Keau’ohana restoration site. NARS specialists, Joshua VanDeMark and his crew have thus far successfully erected a 2000 square foot enclosure around the largest ha’iwale spread at the center of the site. Numerous other clusters are to follow.
Our thanks to DOFAW for helping with the immediate needs of the delicate ha’iwale species. HER will soon investigate options for fencing of the entire 30 acre restoration site. According to HER beloved crew, it is an uphill battle, but with a deeply rewarding purpose, as they bear witness to the still existing beauty.
We offered an evening presentation at the very lovely Volcano Art Center of Volcano Village. The event was well attended and we shared a rich discussion about the similarities and differences of invasive species found at higher elevations, such as the Myraca faya and Kawili ginger. Although the Kawili ginger is a different species of ginger than found below, species in the Zingerberaceae family tend to be invasive here in Hawai’i. Many people make the mistake of planting them in their yards for their spectacular beauty and often delightful fragrance. This mistake has caused yet another nightmare for the environment.
The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of the University of Hawai’i in Hilo hosted a special event all day Sunday in honor of its 14th birthday, to help promote environmental awareness. The day was well attended, and all booths offered engaging educational activities for children. A number of presentations were offered, including our power point on ways in which we could support our local Hawaii environment. We much enjoyed the lengthy discussion that followed, with an audience from all ages. Rich exchanges occurred all day as people wandered over to our booth as well. It was a good thing our outreach coordinator, James Elston was there to help!
University of Hawaii at Hilo professor Jonathan Price, and his vegetation class, came to learn about plant species, the forest composition and the restoration project in Keau’ohana this Saturday. The students conducted a brief survey to further study the effects of invasive species on the native interior of Keau’ohana site. By comparing the monotypic composition of the waiawi border to the native diversity within the site, students were able to observe the difference between a healthy forest and one that is depleted of richness and abundance.
In collaboration with the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, Hawai’i Environmental Restoration has had its second 100-Tree Planting Event of the year, in the precious Keau’ohana rainforest. This was a meaningful way to end the year 2019. Planting native trees in the last of Hawai’i’s native lowland rainforest represents a strong beginning to the New Year as well. It is a message, and an action of intention for the restoration of the environment which sustains our lives.
It was a joyous event, which gathered over 34 people and accrued 137 volunteer work hours. There were 14 different native species planted, including ‘ohi’a, ‘ohe, ‘ohe makai, lama, alahe’e, loulu, akia and hala. With the loss of canopy to Rapid Ohia Death, and in hopes for more biodiversity and shade building options, a couple individuals of higher elevation pilo, na’u, ho’awa, papala kepau, kawa’u were planted as experimental. Several of the endangered ha’iwale were also planted.
Without our rainforests, we could not eat, drink, nor breathe. On a collective level, such a realization can come to bring immeasurable repair to a planet taxed with over-development. Tending the land wherever we live is of utmost importance. For this we wish to thank those of you who joined our efforts in the forest this past Sunday. THANK YOU… for actively understanding what it will take to evolve into a more sustainable existence!