Loss of the Hawaiian Forest

The Opportunity

The Solution

Vision and Mission

Since the arrival of man in the Hawaiian Islands, over half of the native forests have been lost. The dominant forest species in the 2000 to 6000 foot elevation band was the mesic hardwood, Acacia Koa.  There is only 10% of this forest type still intact in Hawaii. This loss has occurred due to conversion of the forestland to other uses.

The Hawaiian ecosystem evolved without any grazing mammals. Therefore, the native plants developed no natural system to resist grazing.  Koa is a legume and is a nitrogen fixing species. This makes it highly desirable to non-native grazing animals such as pigs, cattle, goats, and sheep.  The endemic plants are consumed so rapidly that they cannot regenerate fast enough to keep their numbers from dwindling.


In addition to the loss of Koa from the impacts of grazing, the popularity of Koa wood as a commodity is growing rapidly as well. The current value of the older Koa wood in the market today is very high. The price of Koa has risen more than 1000% in the last ten years and more than 2000% in the last twenty years.

Koa is now one of the most valuable woods on Earth and this situation has led to harvesting methods which are unsustainable.

Left on this current course, Koa will meet the same fate as Hawaiian Sandalwood did in the 1840’s.

Kukaiau Ranch has had all of these issues occur in one form or another. The land has been ranched for over 100 years and it has produced considerable amounts of Koa lumber over the years. The Koa tree inventory is very low and many trees are younger and not of the most desirable wood characteristics for the current use market. The ranch has also been subdivided into lots in the 80-200 acre size and many are currently being sold off, further degrading habitat.

In the last 6 years, HLRI has taken 1000 acres of denuded pastureland and reestablished an entire intact endemic ecosystem (the world’s first Hawaiian Legacy Forest). HLRI has planted more than 300,000 endemic trees on the Island of Hawaii and has commitments for nearly 700,000 more over the coming years–well on its way to its overall goal of planting 1.3 million trees (one for each man, woman, and child in Hawaii).

HLRI has been recognized globally for groundbreaking innovations. Through state-of-the-art technologies and proprietary forest management practices, HLRI is promoting long-term forest health, carbon sequestration, ecosystem diversity, and unparalleled data collection for research and development, all while creating green jobs for Hawaii families. HLRI also supports the efforts of more than 330 other nonprofits through the planting of Legacy Trees. Most importantly, it does all of this in a way that honors the Hawaiian culture and generates no debt to the organization.


The VISION of the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative ("HLRI") is to develop and implement innovative forest restoration models that will not only return the endemic forests to the landscape of Hawaii, but will allow these forests to be financially self-supporting both now and into the future.

The MISSION of the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative is to develop scientific, economic and ecologically sustainable models and practices that would:

* Restore and improve the Hawaiian forest to land it occupied in the past

* Allow landowners to profitably establish and maintain permanent forest on these lands

* Protect our native flora and fauna

* Sequester carbon

* Educate and entrain the general public into being part of the solution

* Recharge our watersheds

* Allow individuals and businesses an opportunity to help their favorite charities through the planting of trees

Return of the Hawaiian Forest

Click here to watch the documentary film "Founders and Visionaries: Hawaiian Legacy"

Make a Donation

Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative

PO Box 22435 Honolulu, HI 96823




Phoenix Award Winner  for Excellence in Sustainability and Conservation