State releases draft management plan for Kapāpala Canoe Forest on Hawaiʻi Island
The draft management plan is now available online for the 1,257-acre Kapāpala Canoe Forest, the only state land designated for cultivating and providing koa for use in kālaiwaʻa, or traditional Hawaiian canoe construction.
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources launched the online platform that also seeks public input about the Kapāpala Koa Canoe Management Area, which is located in Kaʻū Forest Reserve on the southeastern slopes of Mauna Loa on the Big Island.
Koa (Acacia koa) is a tree species found only in Hawaiʻi. Its unique wood has made it highly prized in the construction of waʻa (canoes) since ancient times in Hawaiʻi.
“The process of building a canoe is traditionally led by the kahuna kālaiwaʻa, or master canoe carver, and while this tradition is still alive today, access to canoe-quality koa has dwindled,” , according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
At an elevation ranging from 3,640 to 5,100 feet above sea level, the canoe forest is located in what the Hawaiian culture considers as the wao akua or “forest of the gods.”
The state department and its partners hope the Kapāpala Canoe Forest can be a model for supplying a long-term, sustainable supply of koa, while encouraging regeneration and minimizing impacts to other resources in the area.
The canoe forest also serves as a learning center and community gathering place for traditional Hawaiian practices.
The state Division of Forestry and Wildlife has worked with foresters, scientists, community members, canoe clubs and cultural practitioners for several years to create the draft management plan and associated environmental assessment for the area.
These documents outline tree selection and silvicultural practices, harvest considerations, and plans for how to apply, and receive canoe logs.
The draft management plan details how koa and other forest resources will be protected from threats such as feral animals, which can harm trees and prevent regeneration. The plan also describes the history of the area, boundary changes, and the natural and cultural resources.
The new online platform uses the state’s digital mapping system to provide information about the Kapāpala Koa Canoe Management Area. Users can explore engaging virtual tours and information guides describing the area’s history, natural resources, timber harvest plans, threats, public uses and proposed management priorities.
Users also can participate in an online community survey and find information on how to submit comments for both the management plan and draft environmental assessment that will be included in the planning process.
Written comments for the plan can be submitted in hard copy, if postmarked no later than June 7, 2023: