Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods–Creating a Sustainable Legacy

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Picking a Koa sapling for planting on Moana Kea
Picking a Koa sapling for planting on Moana Kea

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods–creating a Legacy with their Big Island Koa reforestation program on the flanks of Moana Kea

Check out this episode featured on the weekly NPR.ORG Podcast “Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer”

Most everyone is aware that the world’s supply of exotic hardwoods is dwindling at a staggering rate. The World Resource Institute estimates tropical rainforest destruction at 50 million acres per year.

Just a few months ago the Chinese government put in a bid to purchase 50 percent of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest…and the motivation was ultimately not a reverence for tropical hardwoods–their plan is to clear-cut the jungle and subsequently institute a massive Ecuadorian oil drilling operation.

There are commercial and non-profit tree farms and plantations focused on sustainable exotic hardwoods, but the entire inventory represents less than two percent of the worldwide demand for hardwoods. Acacia Koa, one of the world’s most exotic and coveted hardwoods is revered for its curly, ribbon like grain with an enchanting iridescence – a prime reason why woodworkers use Koa for crafting bowls, boxes, architectural accents and high-grade musical instruments. Koa is far from cheap. Its retail cost has escalated approximately 1000 percent over the past 10 years alone.

Giant old-growth Koa on HLH Big Island reforestation property
Giant old-growth Koa on HLH Big Island reforestation property

So how do we turn the tide on the demise of exotic hardwoods?  A friend in Honolulu told me about a company called Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, located on the Big Island of Hawaii that’s come up with a viable answer. It’s not a non-profit, but the two visionaries who started HLH, Jeff Dunster and Darrell Fox have created a business model that does quite well financially but also makes a prime mission of giving back not only to the earth but to non-profit organizations as well.

Richard Lindberg & Beth Saylor plant a legacy Koa tree
Richard Lindberg & Beth Saylor plant a “Legacy” Koa tree

I flew from Kauai to Hilo on the Big Island to spend the day with Dunster and Fox at their 2,700 acre plantation located high up on the flanks of 13, 796 foot-tall Maona Kea.In less than four years, HLH has planted more than 200,000 trees, with three quarters of the plantings designated as Legacy trees that will never be harvested. I’m Tom Wilmer, come along and join me at Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods Visitor Center, located 34 miles north of Hilo for a visit with Dunster and Fox.