Harvesting the forest

KEAHUA— The state wants to cash in on 560 acres of non-native timber in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve, and they’re considering an update to the area’s management plan to achieve the goal.

That means inviting private companies into the 12,500-acre reserve to harvest the trees, which are mostly eucalyptus, albizia and paper bark trees.

But first, it means preparing an environmental assessment on the possible update, and touching base with the community to get resident input on the plan.

That EA will detail the effects of harvesting the trees on the plant and animal species living in the forest, whether commercial logging of the trees will affect other activities happening in the reserve, and other potential effects.

“Any new information will be included in the updated management plan and the EA,” said Sheri Mann, manager of the state’s Department of Forestry and Wildlife.

Pre-consultation letters describing DOFAW’s interest in the reserve have been sent out to hundreds of people throughout the state, including Kauai. The request for comment on the announcement of the EA expires Oct. 30.

“All input from those letters will be reviewed and addressed as appropriate in the EA and updated management plan,” Mann said.

DOFAW plans to hold at least one public meeting on Kauai to discuss the changes to the management plan, and that’s set to happen after the draft EA is published — sometime after Oct. 30.

Comments don’t have to be restricted to the announcement of the EA or the public meeting; there will also be a 30-day public comment period when the draft EA is published.

When it comes to the money, DOFAW doesn’t know how much cash will be generated from the harvest yet. The money wouldn’t be able to go into the state’s general fund, though.

“Any revenues gained from the sale of any product are deposited into the state’s Forest Stewardship Fund,” Mann said. “If on ceded lands, 20 percent (goes) to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.”

The revenue is depends upon the market and the wood product, Mann said, and what’s been replanted after the first harvest.

“It is too early to know at this time,” Mann said. “It’s not known what species will be replanted after the harvest.”

The first step in selecting the companies that will be allowed to harvest trees from the reserve will be publishing a request for information (RFI) to investigate what interests the are for forest products in the area.

Next, DOFAW will publish a request for proposals from interested entities, which would have to describe in detail their interests, how the harvest and wood products would be managed, and their market.

After reviewing all of those proposals, DOFAW would then make a decision to select one of the proposals, or deny all of them.

“If the selection happens, we will move forward with developing a Forest Products License with the selected entity for a period of time appropriate for the operation to be successful,” Mann said.

Once the draft EA has been published and a public meeting held, all of the public comments will be compiled and the EA will be finalized, where it will be reviewed and considered for Finding of No Significant Impacts.

The trees in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve were planted mostly in the 1930s and 1960s with the intention of future harvest.

The reserve is mostly a wet and mountainous region that includes the Keahua Arboretum and is accessed by fording the Keahua Stream and continuing along the Wailua Forest Management Road.

There is also access to the Kalaheo section of the forest reserve through two unmaintained rights-of-way, one near the end of Kua Road and the other off Pu’u Wai Road.

Comments on the announcement of the EA on the management plan update to the forest reserve can be sent via email to Mitchell@anden.consulting, or to the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, care of Phillip LaHaela Walter, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 325, Honolulu HI, 96813.

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