Oahu Ranch to Re-establish Native Forest
Honolulu Star Advertiser
By Andrew Gomes
An Oahu ranch operated on land owned by an affiliate of the Mormon Church has partnered with its landlord and a nonprofit to re-establish a native forest on most of the 750-acre property in Laie and Malaekahana.
The forest is planned for about 500 acres at Gunstock Ranch, according to Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, a local nonprofit that announced the initiative Tuesday.
Under the plan, more than 600,000 predominantly milo tree seedlings would be planted over the next several years using government reforestation funding programs and donations made through the ranch and Hawaiian Legacy.
The nonprofit said the envisioned forest will be the third it is establishing in Hawaii, following the planting of more than 400,000 trees including koa on about 1,200 acres of former pastureland at Kukaiau Ranch on Hawaii island and a 700-acre project announced last year at Kahua Ranch, also on Hawaii island.
R. Eric Beaver, president of the church-related firm Hawaii Reserves Inc., which manages the Oahu property, said in a statement that the effort is a special one that beautifies and improves lands that have been under church stewardship since the mid-1800s.
"We appreciate the working relationship with the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and our long-term tenant Gunstock Ranch, and our aligned values," he said.
Greg Smith, owner and operator of the ranch, which raises cattle and offers horseback rides, said a low-elevation native forest will be an attractive sight. "We see an incredible, awe-inspiring experience," he said in a statement. "We look forward to being an integral part of restoring the land that we have been working since 1971."
Jeff Dunster, Hawaiian Legacy's executive director, said in a statement that a broader area that includes the ranch running from the mountains to the sea was once part of a native coastal habitat dominated by hala, hau, kukui, koa, naio, sandalwood and milo trees.
The ranch lands are owned by an affiliate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church. Past plans for the ranch site by Hawaii Reserves have included developing a new town with more than 500 homes and commercial properties.