National Park Service firefighters have spent the week trying to prevent the wild fire ignited by Kilauea Volcano from spreading through a protected rain forest that is inhabited by endangered Hawaiian plants and animals.
Nearly 100 acres of the 2,750-acre east rift zone’s special ecological area, an intact lowland rain forest, have already destroyed in the fire ignited March 5 by an eruption at the Kamoamoa fissure.
As of today, the Napau wildfire on the east rift zone of the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano has destroyed 2,000 acres approximately seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center.
The area is the home of the endangered Hawaiian bat, Hawaiian hawk, and other uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals such as Hawaiian thrush, lama and sandalwood trees, happy face spiders, carnivorous caterpillars, and Hawaiian honeycreepers said Gary Wuchner, National Park Service fire information spokesman.
Mardi Lane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, described the area as “pristine.”
“It best represents what Hawaii was and is a seed source for plants and refuge for birds,” Lane said.
“It is a living laboratory of Hawaiian plants and animals.”
Firefighters will be working to keep flames from spreading beyond the 100 acres of the refuge
At the supermarket, most shoppers are oblivious to a battle raging within U.S. agriculture and the Obama administration’s role in it. Two thriving but opposing sectors — organics and genetically engineered crops — have been warring on the farm, in the courts and in Washington.
Organic growers say that, without safeguards, their foods will be contaminated by genetically modified crops growing nearby. The genetic engineering industry argues that its way of farming is safe and should not be restricted in order to protect organic competitors.
Into that conflict comes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who for two years has been promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants.
But in recent weeks, the administration has announced a trio of decisions that have clouded the future of organics and boosted the position of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Vilsack approved genetically modified alfalfa and a modified corn to be made into ethanol, and he gave limited approval to GE sugar beets.
The announcements were applauded by GE industry executives, who describe their crops as the farming of the future. But organics supporters were furious, saying their hopes that the Obama administration would protect their interests were dashed.
“It was boom, boom boom,” said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Markets, a major player in organics. “These were deeply disappointing. They were such one-sided decisions.”
WAILUKU – Maui planning commissioners Tuesday praised a proposed wind farm as a “wonderful, wonderful project” but raised doubts about getting the massive equipment to the remote location on the southwest flank of Haleakala between two sections of the Auwahi native plant restoration area.
The commission was commenting on a draft environmental impact statement for Sempra Energy’s proposed wind project at Ulupalakua.
Worries about losing the last highway ocean views to what Chairman Jonathan Starr called “pole land” also came up Tuesday. But the wind farm itself was warmly received, with Starr wishing only that it could be bigger than the 21 megawatts proposed.
Pardee Erdman, of Ulupalakua Ranch, which will lease nearly 1,500 acres to Sempra, called the project “a win-win for the ranch.” He said the infrastructure needed to transport heavy turbines and lengthy vanes will “make that land more productive than it is today,” although he added, “We are going to continue raising cattle.”
Maui Electric Co. has contracted to begin purchasing wind electricity from the project a year from now.
But developers still have to obtain many permits before they can proceed, including a special management area permit for parts of the project makai of the road to Kahikinui.
A nonprofit established three years ago to support farming in Hawaii plans to set up an agricultural park for small farmers in Kunia on land owned by the Army and a private development partner.
The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation hopes to interest 10 or more local farmers in leasing the roughly 200-acre property formerly planted in pineapple and sugar cane.
Lease terms — including rents and the length of leases — have yet to be set, though the foundation aims to have initial tenants on the land by the end of the year, according to Dean Okimoto, a Waimanalo farmer serving as the foundation’s president.
A groundbreaking ceremony at the site is scheduled for today.
The land is part of 2,400 acres the Army and development partner Lend Lease bought in 2008 from Campbell Estate for $32 million, according to property records.
Ann M. Choo Wharton, a spokeswoman for the Army-Lend Lease venture known as Island Palm Communities, said the Army initially planned to expand housing for nearby Schofield Barracks on a small piece of the property. But the Army’s housing needs changed, which prompted the landowners to seek tenants for the whole property.
Monsanto in 2009 leased 1,675 acres for 40 years to grow seed corn. The Army and Lend Lease have 680 acres available for lease and are considering possible renewable-energy uses on another piece of the land, Wharton said.
The roughly 200 acres for the ag park is part of what Monsanto leases. As part of the Monsanto lease, the Army and Lend Lease required that 10 percent of the land be made available to local farmers.
Oahu growers have been hit by thieves seeking pricey ornamental plants as well as pots, tools and other gear.
Over the weekend, thieves took more than $15,000 worth of farm equipment and a truck from a taro restoration project in the Heeia wetlands.
Mahealani Cypher, spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization Kako‘o ‘Oiwi, said yesterday that two chain saws, eight weed whackers, two water pumps, tools and a 20-by-20-foot tent were stolen sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
Last week, Glenn’s Flowers and Plants on Mokulama Street in Waimanalo lost 70 Raphis indoor palms valued at $14,000.
The nursery lost 37 plants that were growing in 3-gallon pots, nine palms in 5-gallon pots and 24 palms in 7-gallon pots. All of the plants were housed in a greenhouse.
In Kaneohe, workers arriving at the 400-acre site at 11 a.m. Sunday discovered the security gate off Kamehameha Highway was broken, Cypher said. The thieves also used blowtorches to open locked containers. A donated green Chevy pickup truck is also missing,
We were poking around upcountry Maui and driving its narrow, twisting roads, but by midafternoon we had to turn around. We had an important date at a lower elevation.
Forget meeting friends for mai-tais or heading to Lahaina for the sunset. We were going to herd the animals at Surfing Goat Dairy.
Herding anything may be the last activity one considers for a Maui vacation. But the dairy is one of several island farms that have opened for public tours over the last few years. They offer the chance to explore the island’s back roads, meet the growers and learn something about the exotic fruits, vegetables and cheeses you’ll encounter and enjoy on Maui.
“It’s a growing national trend,” says Maui resident Charlene Kauhane, a board member of the Hawaii Agri-Tourism Association. “Visitors are looking for authentic experiences, for opportunities where they can meet locals and buy local.”
And sometimes, you just want a break from the beach. So let’s go down on the farm on Maui.
Alii Kula Lavender Farm
Even before you arrive, you’ll detect Alii Kula Lavender Farm from the lovely fragrance wafting over Upcountry. It comes from 45 lavender varieties planted over 10 acres in Haleakala’s foothills. You can meander over paths on your own, or join one of the walking tours. You’ll learn about lavender’s culinary uses and healthful benefits, as well as the farm’s dedication to practicing agriculture in a sustainable way.
Alii Lavender also offers workshops in wreath making and container gardens, and other special events.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TWENTY-SIXTH LEGISLATURE, 2011
H .C.R. NO. 300
STATE OF HAWAII
WHEREAS, cacao, derived from the theobroma cacao tree, is the dried and fermented seed from which chocolate is obtained, native to the central and western Amazon region and is widely distributed throughout the humid tropical regions with commercial production concentrated in Brazil, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria; and
WHEREAS, cacao was first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1850; and
WHEREAS, Hawafi’s environment and climate position it as the only state in the United States that can commercially grow cacao and as the state which is in the closest proximity to both Asia and the continental United States and is ideally located to capture and prosper from the opportunities of a growing cacao market which currently generates $75 billion worldwide annually; and
Bob and Pam Cooper acquired more than 1,800 cacao trees in Holualoa over a decade ago and established the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. They’ve been processing 100 percent Hawaii-grown cacao into chocolate products ever since. Bob also grows and sells cacao trees, encouraging others to grow this valuable crop. West Hawaii now has many cacao growers and several budding artisanal chocolate makers.
Cacao originated in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins of Ecuador and Brazil, and has been cultivated in Central and South America for thousands of years. Theobroma, the genus of the cacao tree, translates to “food of the gods” and the resulting chocolate was once reserved solely for the pleasure of Aztec kings.
Today, cacao growing and chocolate making is a global industry, but with more local growers and those making chocolate with locally grown ingredients, localvores can satisfy their chocolate urge with a reduced carbon footprint.
Cacao is a tropical rain forest tree and thrives in areas with temperatures above 50 degrees and about 60 inches of annual rainfall or good irrigation. It is especially well-suited to areas in Kona that get a cool afternoon cloud cover. You might consider adding a few cacao trees, if your growing conditions are suitable.
I wrote in Thursday’s paper about the challenges that Colombian coffee growers face from climate shifts on their mountaintop farms, and how Cenicafé, the national coffee institute, is doing research to breed coffee plants to better resist warmer, wetter weather.
Most everything at Cenicafé’s lush mountain campus in western Colombia is coffee-centric. There are chemists who analyze the brew’s chemical content to understand what mix of molecules makes for great flavor. There are gardens filled with coffee plants from all over the world for breeding new heartier variants. There are geneticists studying the coffee genome.
But Cenicafé scientists are also studying a little bright blue bird whose plight has gained widespread attention in the United States: the cerulean warbler.
The cerulean warbler is on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of threatened species. Once plentiful in the United States, its population is decreasing faster than that of any other eastern songbird.
A big part of the problem is that much of the cerulean warbler’s breeding ground in states like West Virginia and Tennessee has been destroyed by forest-felling and mountaintop coal mining. Conservation groups are fighting to save the species, and its plight features prominently in Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, “Freedom.”
So what does this have to do with Colombian coffee? It turns out that the cerulean warbler winters in Colombia and other countries in the northern part of South America. And it seems to prefer the forest canopy of its mountain coffee-growing regions.
So scientists are working to better understand the warbler’s winter habitat, and to make sure it is preserved.