Maui News

Maui Koa Forest Becomes New Natural Area Reserve

June 8, 2011, 1:57 PM HST
* Updated June 9, 9:32 AM
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By Wendy Osher

Nakula, a new Natural Area Reserve in leeward Haleakalā. Photo courtesy, Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

A rare remnant koa forest, located on the upper leeward slopes of Haleakalā on Maui, gained designation today as a Natural Area Reserve (NAR).  The 1,500-acre Nakula parcel becomes the 20th Natural Area Reserve in the state.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources established designation of the site to preserve what remains of a native forest.

State officials say the koa forest once covered an estimated 40,000-acres across the southern flank of Haleakalā, stretching from Makawao to Kaupō.

The vast majority of the forest was destroyed, in large part by introduced and alien species.  The remaining 10% that remains will be protected under the newly established Nakula NAR designation.  State officials say there is still great potential for natural regeneration.

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“The seedbank of the ancient forest remains in the Nakula NAR, and with protection from threats, the forest can be restored,” said DLNR Chairperson, William Ailā, Jr.

Halapepe trees in Kanaio Natural Area Reserve, which will soon be protected by a fence that will keep out goats and deer, while allowing the public to enter through pedestrian gates. Photo courtesy DLNR.

Wiliwili flower in Kanaio Natural Area Reserve. Photo courtesy DLNR.

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The state agency plans to begin construction of a fence downslope of the Nakula reserve soon, that will protect the neighboring Kanaio NAR from grazing animals.

By restoring wiliwili forests in the lowlands of Kanaio NAR, and designating the high elevation koa forests of the new Nakula Reserve, DLNR hopes to revive leeward Haleakalā, from mauka to makai.

In addition to managing the Reserves, DLNR is also seeking to expand restoration of the forest as a member of the Leeward Haleakalā Watershed Restoration Partnership.

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“The protection of the plants and animals of Nakula sustains the life of the wao akua (realm of the gods) of the misty upland forests, and important native Hawaiian cultural resources such as the ancient koa and ‘ohi‘a trees,” said Ailā.

*** Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting information courtesy state of Hawai’i, Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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