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by Yuki, Ohashi, Associate Science & Environment editor

Because more than 10,000 native plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth but on the eight Hawaiian islands, with a combined land area of only 6,500 square miles, Hawai‘i is called the “biological jewel of the United States.”

However, today, nearly two-thirds of the islands’ original forests have been lost, and more than one-third of Hawai‘i’s native species are on the U.S. endangered species list.

Click on image for larger view

An organization that is helping to preserve Hawai‘i plants and animals is The Nature Conservancy, a multinational NGO that promotes and implements natural conservation. It has protected more than 92 million acres of land worldwide, by purchasing them. It is successful because it has the ability to work directly with local communities, public agencies, government groups, and private businesses.

The Nature Conservancy protects nearly 200,000 acres in the Hawaiian islands. It recently purchased 3,548 acres of conservation land in Mauna Loa valley, the southern end of the Big Island, in order to prevent the spread of weeds. As a result of the close of the sugar industry, weeds flourished in the valley and threatened the native plants. The Nature Conservancy and local communities will manage the land to prevent new weed invasions and to reduce threats to the larger landscape. The purchase was made possible by a gift to the organization’s Hawaiian Forest Campaign from an anonymous supporter.

In addition to protecting the native forests, and the biological species they harbor, through ownership of the land, The Nature Conservancy has developed a model of sustainable koa forestry that enables private landowners to maintain the biological and economic value of their lands.

We can help to protect native forests by volunteering with The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i. Honolulu Preserve has work trips the second and fourth Saturday of every month. Call (808) 621-2008.


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