Course:FRST370/Community forestry roles in Hawaii: the Kamehameha schools approach

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The Hawaiian islands are located in the Pacific Ocean and are host to a wide variety of biodiversity, uniquely evolving without any outside influence for millennia. With the introduction of man, along came the agriculture movement, and the landscape of Hawaii dramatically shifted (Friday, 2014). With a dramatic population rise in the 1800s due to the sugar industry (Newell, 1996), introduced species brought by accident or as crops shifted the biodiversity and resulted in an intense drop in native vegetation. Land-use shifts caused such an aggressive change in biodiversity that nearly 300 native plants and birds were listed as threatened (Friday, 2014). With a drop in the sugar cane industry, thousands of acres of land were left to the elements, not being used for economic endeavours, or for ecological restoration. This left many on Hawaii wondering what were the best ways to evaluate the practicality of different land-use systems, thus initiating an upheaval of the ecosystem services-tradeoff approach. Hawaii’s largest private landowner, The Kamehameha Schools, left as a charitable educational trust, has been a pilot for a site assessment for future ecosystem developments on one section of their lands along the North Shore of Oahu (Goldstein, 2012). The Kamehameha schools' main goal with its land is as follows: "Kamehameha Schools is committed to protecting, maintaining, restoring and enhancing the resources on its lands to ensure that they serve Native Hawaiians for generations to come." (Kamehameha Schools).

Tenure arrangements

Historically, the lands held by the school have been used for purely economic benefits, mainly agriculture. But in 1996, when a large sugar cane industry ended its lease with the school, they decided to make a shift (Goldstein,2012). This shift was to balance the social, economic, environmental, educational, and cultural returns rather than purely economic. Being privately owned, these lands solely belong to the Kamehameha schools, as part of the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha the Great, the first ruler of the Hawaiian Islands (Kamehameha Schools). Governing bodies of Hawaii have little influence on the land usage, leaving the management strategies to the people of the school. Along the North Shore of Oahu, this land that had been agriculture for over 100 years (Goldstein, 2012) had been agreed upon to service the local communities. The school agreed to divert 7.0 million$ to develop these lands for a variety of ecosystem services, forestry and education being the focal point (Kamehameha Schools), while throughout the rest of their vast quantity of land, many other tenure arrangements are seen. Some being for residential development, with building complexes on them, others being agricultural leases. But all land rights lie within the possession of the Kamehameha School trust (Goldstein, 2012).

Administrative arrangements

Aina Ulu from the Kamehameha schools integrates culture based and place based education to foster kinship and kuleana between kanaka and aina (Kamehameha schools). By doing so, the administration bridges the resource management and education together, this creates a high volume of participants to engage in Hawaiian culture and history (Kamehameha schools). Within the Kamehameha schools, the governance of the land relies on many trustees and executives (Kamehameha schools). On the board of trustees, there are five individuals who are Lance Keawe Wilhelm, Robert K.W.H. Nobriga, Elliot Kawaiho'olana Mills, Micah Alika Kane, and Crystal Kauilani Rose (Kamehameha schools). The roles and responsibilities that the trustees have are to provide a strategic direction and focus to fulfill and sustain the vision of the agricultural land and values of the Kamehameha schools (Kamehameha schools).

Affected Stakeholders

There are large private landowners that are constantly being affected as well by the quality and maintenance of their land (Goldstein, 2012). For example, one of the largest private landowners in O'ahu, Hawaii, are the Kamehameha schools and they design land-use development plans that can balance multiple private and public values on the North Shore land holdings (Goldstein, 2012). The Kamehameha schools will be greatly affected by certain outcomes of land and forests because they own approximately 147, 710 hectares of land which is approximately 8% of the total land base (Goldstein, 2012). From this land, approximately 2200 hectares of arable land has been in a continuous production of sugarcane for about 100 years (Goldstein, 2012). In order for them to keep up with the maintenance of the land, they must have many employees working many hours. For example, outside of the Kamehameha schools, Approximately 1000 Hawaiians are employed in the growth and crafting of koa wood and the products made from koa wood (Robinson, 1999). The Kamehameha schools appear to understand how to maintain and improve their agricultural land and forests since those are in a continuous production for many years. The schools undertook extensive land use planning processes with the local communities of Hawaii (Goldstein, 2012). However, if the Kamehameha schools want to improve their land such as upgrading their region's aging irrigation system to sustain and enhance the agricultural production or to pursue other options, they have to invest approximately $7.0 million (Goldstein, 2012). As a result of rented agriculture lands' tax subsidies, the Kamehameha schools suffer from a financial loss of $530,000 annually (Goldstein, 2012). Therefore the schools' incentive is to reduce the amount of rented space to large companies and to reduce it to community based and educational purposes. These current financial annual losses may drastically affect the Kamehameha schools depending on how much money is saved in order to adapt to these maintenance surprises. If the land somehow needs mandatory improvements, the Kamehameha schools will have no choice but to spend a large amount of money to manage the hundreds of thousands of acres of land (depending on how much land they need to manage). For example, if the land position changes, it could drastically affect the water resources of the Kamehameha schools or any other land (Brauman, 2015). In order for the schools to sustain and maintain the health of the land and forests, they must invest a lot of time and money (Goldstein, 2012).

Besides the Kamehameha schools, there are other organizations that are similar to them that may be affected such as, the Hawaii Forestry and Communities Initiative also known as Na Hoa Mahi ai (Partners in Planting) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) forest service (Robinson, 1999). The Hawaii Forestry Communities Initiative organization was created in 1997 to help community forestry succeed in Hawaii to maintain healthy forests, encourage economic development and diversity, respond to community values, and to create partnerships and educational opportunities for the citizens of Hawaii (Robinson, 1999). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an environmental protection agency which provides the state of Hawaii with many initiatives and programs (Robinson, 1999). The programs that they provide are statewide forest inventory of non-native hardwood plantations, creation of a program for the University of Hawaii and community college to create a curriculum providing local students with skills and training for new forestry jobs (Robinson, 1999). These services and the organizations that are created by them will all be affected considering how well the community forests and old growth forests are in the future. If we want to maintain or make the forests better, we need to conserve the resources that the forests provide.

Due to the high demands on forests and for forest products in Hawaii, community forests and forests in general are a necessity for many Hawaiians, where the condition of the forests will affect most people living in Hawaii as well as people from around the world. Not only do the forests of Hawaii provide people with food and shelter for the community and other countries, but the forests also provide many raw materials like tree products and a variety of ecosystem services. The trees of the forest can provide wood, bark, fruits, and vegetables. Hawaiians use tree products in many different ways, for example, there are many businesses in Hawaii that craft wood products using the wood from koa trees (Robinson, 1999). The Acacia koa trees are ecologically, economically, and culturally important to the Hawaiian islands (Wiedenbeck, 2017). The citizens of Hawaii must manage the forests very well to prevent the decrease in the amount of forests and to help maintain the many jobs the forests provide to Hawaiians.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Unlike affected stakeholders, interested stakeholders aren't directly correlated with the production, development and growth of the land plot. But are interested in some sort of return provided by the forestry system in place, whether those returns are environmental, economic or social. In this particular case study, those interested stakeholders come in the form of future investors, agriculture companies looking to develop on the Kamehameha Schools' land, and the tourism industry. With a total of 62 real estates properties developed on the schools' extensive lands, development on this global hub is always up for debate (Commercial Real Estate Kamehameha Schools). but along the North Shore, the community forestry this study focuses on, goals of community engagement and sustainability far out way their desire for economic growth. As with the shift towards community engagement, forestry and agriculture development on this land is held within the Kamehameha School community, therefore outside stakeholders from an agriculture side disappeared with the sugar cane industry. Their relative power and influence ended when their lease was voided. As for the tourism industry, their influence in Hawaii is intense. With Oahu alone seeing almost 6 million visitors in 2017/2018 alone (Hawaii tourism Statistics), land is always being allocated for their continually growing eco-tourism sector. As land allocation has been dedicated to education and sustainability, this particular piece of land is dedicated to locals and future Hawaiian communities, and government investments in tourism hold no power on these lands. As in the trusts platform, these lands are to be kept for native Hawaiians for generations to come. Although in certain cases, they have swayed from this goal, the north shore site (since 2000) has been able to re-affirm this mindset (Goldstein, 2012).


The Kamehameha schools' efforts to get back to their roots, has been an amazing step in the right direction. Across their lands they have been able to free up lands from large companies' extensive lease agreements, and convert them to sustainable and locally employed forestry/educational grounds. The schools have re-invented their action plan, straying away from the previous ideologies of economic stability, and focusing on several other more important pillars. These lie with educational improvements, Hawaiian identity, and ecosystem sustainability (Kamehameha Schools). In the North Shore site, these goals have been met by improving local engagement in the system, while diversifying the ecosystem with several different silviculture systems and agricultural usages. As well as using the lands for classes and school engagement. One main concern on this site was water quality in the surrounding villages caused by the agriculture runoff, so an action plan was drawn up to improve water quality while attempting to maintain farming practices (Goldstein, 2012). The Kamehameha School board has done a great job in assessing the problems at hand and relating them back to their future goals, allowing them to adjust to whatever the social and environmental situations are present. The issue of water quality is still an issue, and requires further economic investments to improve irrigation systems in place (Goldstein, 2012), and this will require financial reallocation from other sectors of their businesses. To further improve community engagement, more consulting with locals who are not a part of the schools should be done. Hawaiian natives who have been in the North Shore areas are influenced heavily by what the Kamehameha Schools decide to do, whether its food sources at local markets, or timber production, jobs or water quality (Goldstein, 2012).


The main trustees of the Kamehameha schools relatively have the most power within the organization since they provide roles and responsibilities to their employees (Kamehameha schools). They use their power to maintain and/or improve the agricultural lands to avoid the land from becoming at risk of failure. The employees of the Kamehameha schools seem to do most of the labour on the agricultural lands which is a very important job in order to keep the land healthy.


For future case studies, the study should focus more on the disadvantages and advantages of management strategies on a community forest or a community plot of land. They should focus on how one might be able to avoid certain outcomes of community forests. In order for the community and/or organization to maintain or improve their land, they must rehabilitate or reconstruct the forests/land (Friday, 2015). Rehabilitation is where a degraded forest is fully protected and then becomes enriched, where as, reconstruction is where forests are re-established in previous land that was cleared before (Friday, 2015). The community forest/land must also space out the crops that they have on their land (Samuelson, 2010). Spacing of plants is essential for density, quadratic mean diameter, height, and much more (Samuelson, 2010).


Brauman, K.A., Freyberg, D.L. (2015). Impacts of Land-Use Change on Groundwater Supply: Ecosystem Services Assessment in Kona, Hawaii. ASCE, 141(12), 1-11.

Friday, J. B., Cordell, S., Giardina, C. P., Inman-narahari, F., Koch, N., Leary, J. J., . . . Trauernicht, C. (2015). Future directions for forest restoration in Hawai'i. New Forests, 46(5-6), 733-746. doi:

Goldstein, J. (n.d.). Integrating ecosystem-service tradeoffs into land-use decisions. Sustainability Science, 109(19), 7565–7570.

Newell, L. A., Buck, M.G. (1996). Hawaii Forestry: Opportunities and Uncertainties . Journal of Forestry, 10(94), 4–8.

Robinson, M. (1999). Forestry and Communities in Hawaii. Journal of Forestry, 97(7), 3.

Samuelson, L. J., Eberhardt, T.L., Butnor, J.R., Stokes, T.A., Johnsen, K.H. (2010). Maximum Growth Potential in Loblolly Pine: Results From a 47-year-old Spacing Study in Hawaii. Canadian journal of forest research, 40(10), 1914-1929. doi: 10.1139/X10-133

Wiedenbeck, J.K., Eini, L. (2017). Wood Quality of Old-Growth Koa Logs and Lumber. Forest products journal, 67(⅞), 416-426. doi:10.13073/FPJ-D-16-00067

Kamehameha Schools. (n.d.). Derrick, J. C. (2019, January 18). Hawaii Tourism Statistics.

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This conservation resource was created by Mitchell Wong, Ben Carbell.