ReTree Hawai‘i to plant 1,000 trees at Makauwahi Cave

  • Courtesy of John Latkiewicz

    ReTree Hawai‘i is providing a special gift from Native Plant Nursery: an ʻiliahi (endemic sandalwood) with ahinahina. ReTree Hawai‘i planted the tree near three old, surviving ʻiliahi trees, and a couple of the trees are blooming. This archived picture was taking before the COVID-19 pandemic.

PO‘IPU — Long-time Kaua‘i volunteer John Harder’s latest mission is to develop a more-sustainable environment by planting trees.

Harder, a retired resident of Anahola known locally as “The Dump Doctor” for his long-time service in solid waste and recycling operations, is a volunteer of the Mau‘i-based organization ReTree Hawai‘i.

ReTree Hawai‘i launched a statewide campaign prioritizing the preservation and planting of Native Hawaiian trees across the Hawaiian islands.

Working with Makauwahi Cave employee Tess Sprawson and ReTree Hawai‘i, Harder’s main objective is to find 50 Kaua‘i volunteers to plant 1,000 trees at Makauwahi Cave on Oct. 30, withn a goal of eventually planting 4,000 trees in the cave.

“The goal here is to use this as an educational tool to get more people involved,” Harder said.

ReTree will collaborate with several organizations, such as, Rotary Club, Sierra Club, Surfrider and Makauwahi Cave Reserve to organize the plantings.

“We realize that many sites have other landscaping types in place, and do have the space for trees or have additional goals with the plants and food security,” sid Rob Weltman, president of the Maui Sierra Club. “Every plant does its little part, so we support all efforts and plants except invasive ones.”

It takes years for trees to mature after planting, Weltman said.

“There is a popular proverb that says, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is today.’ One of the general estimates of CO2 absorption is ‘a mature tree absorbs carbon dioxide at 48 pounds per year,’” Weltman said. “In one year, an acre of forest can absorb twice the CO2 produced by an average car’s mileage.”

A number of schools are participating in the planting and are being offered an online curriculum for teachers through one of the participating organizations, Maui Huliau Foundation.

The organization has planting sites all across Mau‘i County, and hopes to add more on Kaua‘i.

“By having a coordinated event across the state, we hope there will be coverage and discussion in all media about the climate crisis and what needs to be done to mitigate it and deal with it,” Weltman said.

For more information, to register a site for planting or to volunteer, go to

For questions, contact Weltman at (808) 354-0490 or


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