What Legacy Will You Leave?
Green Magazine Hawaii
Now a decade into operation, HLH and its family of companies are proving that man and nature can not only coexist peacefully, they can thrive.
Generations ago, the natural landscape of the Hamakua Coast on Hawai‘i Island began to disappear. Throughout the 1800s, pineapple, sugarcane and cattle replaced the endemic koa and ‘öhi‘a forests on Mauna Kea, permanently destroying most of its forestland—or so it seemed.
In 2009, sustainable forestry company HLH planted a single koa tree on the slopes of Mauna Kea, turning the corner on a century of degradation and neglect. Since that first tree was placed in the ground, thousands of individuals have joined in the reforestation effort by planting more than 400,000 rare, endemic trees, creating nearly 1,200 acres of pristine native habitat. This land is now known as the Hawaiian Legacy Forest.
HLH’s award-winning, innovative approach has combined sustainable forestry, agriculture, education, ecotourism and eco-assets to create a blueprint for environmental and financial success. “This first-of-its-kind Legacy Forest has successfully proven that a long-term, multifaceted approach to land management can be much more valuable and sustainable than anyone ever imagined,” says Jeff Dunster, CEO of HLH.
The backbone of HLH’s reforestation initiative is a for-harvest tree-planting model—the opposite of where most people would begin to solve a problem like deforestation. HLH pioneered an investment model in which investors purchase seedlings in lots of 100, to be planted specifically for future timber harvest. Over the next 25 years, HLH is then tasked with the care, maintenance and eventual harvest of those trees.
This sustainable timber model constituted 25 percent of the project site; the revenue, however, was sufficient to establish the necessary infrastructure for the entire project. The remaining 75 percent of the lands within the project site are reserved for Legacy Trees. These tree are not part of a harvest program—they’re part of a managed forest, benefiting the entire endemic ecosystem and essentially replacing the one that was lost a century ago.
It didn’t take long for investors to notice the potential of HLH’s reforestation model. Fund managers, 401(k) holders, high-net-worth individuals and related businesses were all keenly aware of the investment potential of koa. Given the increasing koa timber shortages and the relentless rise in koa prices, investors welcomed the opportunity to invest in sustainable timber production while giving back and restoring the natural forest for future generations.
Dan Falardeau, president of the Hawai‘i Division of the investment firm New Direction IRA, learned about HLH from a client interested in diversifying their retirement portfolio. Falardeau was intrigued. “We have had dozens of clients who purchase koa tree investment lots for their long-term potential,” he says. “This allows investors to diversify their retirement portfolio in a way that also supports our local environment and economy. They have the opportunity to plant trees and have that more tangible kick-the-tire experience. They can physically visit their investment trees or go online any time and see their investment trees from the comfort of their own laptop—something that people don’t often get when it comes to mutual funds.”
Leaving a Legacy
The Legacy Tree program is managed with the help of the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI). Its mission is to provide opportunities for individuals, businesses and charitable organizations to participate in the reforestation of Hawai‘i through the planting of Legacy Trees. Legacy Tree sponsors help to make a meaningful, tangible and quantifiable impact as they help restore the Hawaiian forest. People plant Legacy Trees to honor an individual, celebrate an event or memorialize a loved one. In addition to reforesting Hawai‘i’s native habitat, proceeds from HLRI’s Legacy Tree sponsorships have provided funding to more than 350 other charities throughout Hawai‘i and around the world.
“The benefits go beyond money, though,” says HLRI Chairman John Farias. “These trees are bringing back our endemic wildlife as well. We are seeing the return of rare and endangered species like the pueo and ne-ne-. We are even seeing baby ‘io nesting in our Legacy Trees and have witnessed the return of the koa butterfly. It is remarkable.”
What makes this reforestation project unique is that each tree is planted with a proprietary state-of-the-art radio-frequency identification tagging system that tracks the tree throughout its lifetime.
This technology was developed to track and improve long-term forest health, carbon sequestration, ecosystem diversity and tree ownership, all with unparalleled transparency. The data sets collected in the Legacy Forest are so extensive that it is widely known as the most intricately mapped forest in the world.
Hawaiian Legacy Tours
For those who want to get their hands dirty, you can plant your own Legacy Tree through Hawaiian Legacy Tours, voted Hawai‘i’s number-one ecotour by the Hawai‘i Ecotourism Association for its contributions to advancing environmentally enriching opportunities in the islands. Choose a King Koa, Monarch Milo, ‘Öhi‘a Lehua or Royal Sandalwood and become a part of Hawai‘i’s natural history.
There are many ways to access the forest and personalize your tree-planting experience: hike in like a woodsman, motor in on all-terrain vehicles, stroll in on horseback through exclusive scenic trails or arrive in a private helicopter. Guests have the opportunity to sponsor and plant Legacy Trees on Hawai‘i Island or at Gunstock Ranch on O‘ahu’s North Shore.
Best of all, a video of your planting will be linked to your Legacy Tree, providing a record of the event and granting private online access to both your tree and your video by you, friends and loved ones.
Individuals and businesses can now offset their environmental impact and become carbon-neutral through the planting of Legacy Trees or through the purchase of forest carbon credits, all while supporting Hawai‘i’s local economy. Legacy Carbon is the only certified carbon credit of any kind in Hawai‘i and the first forest carbon credit in North America to be carbon certified by Switzerland’s prestigious Gold Standard Foundation.
The first Legacy Carbon partner was Paradise Helicopters, a local air-tour company that offers guests the unique opportunity to offset the carbon footprint of their air tours. “The ability to offer carbon-neutral flights provides us a means to bring awareness to environmental concerns and can help guests recognize the impact of civilization on our native forests,” says Calvin Dorn, CEO of Paradise Helicopters. “Legacy Carbon provides the opportunity to offer forest tours, education and rehabilitation, especially in remote areas, while also offsetting the environmental impact of those operations.”
Revenue generated from the sale of carbon credits will fund the care and maintenance of the Legacy Forest and support its ongoing needs for the next century, making the Hawaiian Legacy Forest both ecologically and financially self-sustaining.