koa tree

HILT and Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods Announce Partnership


HILT Becomes Recipient of Donations When “Legacy Trees” are Purchased In an agreement announced today, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods have partnered to further the goal to restore Hawaii’s dwindling koa forests and benefit other native forests across the state while also supporting the land trust’s work to protect and conserve important lands in Hawaii.

Koa, considered by some the “king of the forest”, as well as one of the world’s most valuable tropical hardwoods, has been severely depleted by feral cattle, land clearing, invasive pests and unsustainable harvesting.

“The continued degradation of this monarch tree, with no replanting, has diminished our koa forests and the quality of other native forest species that depend on the koa,” said Ted Clement, the land trust’s executive director. “This partnership seeks to address both of those concerns.”

Founded in 2008, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods has been implementing an aggressive program of replanting entire native ecosystems on hundreds of acres of land that was once a koa-dominated forest. The reforestation project was launched at the Big Island’s Kūka‘iau Ranch, on the northeast slopes of Mauna Kea, and plans are underway to expand to other areas and islands.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods CEO Jeff Dunster said the company operates on both a conservation model and a commercial one. Donors can participate in a Legacy Tree program, which stipulates that the trees are never harvested and become part of a new, permanent Hawaiian forest. Participants in the Forest Investment program finance the planting of trees that will eventually be logged, providing a return on their investment.

The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is participating in the Legacy Tree component, in which participants pay $60 for each tree planted. Of that sum, a minimum of $1 goes to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, and $20 to the charity of the donor's choice. Donors may elect the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to be the recipient of the $20 charitable contribution as well.

With each planted tree, an electronic chip is placed in the ground. The chip contains the serial number of the tree and is linked with a proprietary software system that tracks the entire lifecycle of the tree including its GPS coordinates, health and maintenance records of the tree and even the location of the mother tree where the seed was collected. In addition, it stores the name of the tree sponsor and the name of the individual the tree was planted to honor.

All money donated to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust will be used to further the land trust’s mission of protecting the places that will sustain us for current and future generations here in Hawaii. “It’s a partnership that will create new koa forests and preserve existing native forests and other important lands,” said Ted Clement , Executive Director of the Land Trust.

Added Dunster: “You're not just planting a tree, you’re helping to return an entire native ecosystem.”

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods’ forestry programs have been warmly received and have more than 40 key partnerships nationwide. One participant, the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, has committed to plant 500,000 legacy koa trees over the next few years, in conjunction with their 50th anniversary. In addition, this program supports more than 240 charities worldwide.

The koa tree, Acacia koa, is native to the Hawaiian Islands. It provided ancient Hawaiians with timber for building canoes, spears, bowls, construction materials and even fishhooks. Along with ‘ōhi‘a, it is one of the signature trees of the Hawaiian forest, with a broad canopy that provides a rich, protected zone for understory plants.