Friends of Hamakua is gravely concerned over a proposed plywood/veneer plant and about the State Forest Hamakua Management Plan, which would imply the harvesting of 4,000 acres of old "non-native" plantations. There are several reasons for this concern. Access roads will have to be built into all of these, many forested areas. Once harvesting begins, all public access to these roads will be closed off due to liability concerns. Once the roads are in place, access will be gained to the few remaining native tree stands, which the plan says, may be removed if necessary.
The big landowner Bishop Estate, which owns the sugar lands of Hamakua, has 12,000 acres planted and 4,000 acres more to expand its eucalyptus plantations. The company is also planting 5,000 acres down south in Ka'u. Also Parker Ranch is beginning to lease another 10,000 acres to eucalyptus. Additionally, concern is increasing among ranchers, since ponds are diminishing their yield because of the presence of eucalyptus monocultures, which can be intensifying the effects of drought. Ranchers are extremely upset that eucalyptus is taking over much of the land.
Genetically modified crops have been hogging the limelight of public opinion due to the controversy arising on their unpredictable consequences on health and the environment. Nevertheless, the genetic engineering of trees has been largely in the shadows. In the meantime, joint ventures of giant corporations were created to carry out research in the tree biotechnology field.
In 1997 Friends of Hamakua -a local NGO- together with local farmers and community organizations successfully resisted a project of Prudential Insurance Co.and Oji/Paper Marubeni to set up a big eucalyptus plantation and a pulp mill in the Big Island of Hawaii. The project was finally rejected by the Hawaiian authorities (see WRM Bulletins 3 and 7).
In many parts of the word, a large number of non-native species are invading forests and other ecosystems, leading to dramatic changes in their floristic composition and related impacts on local wildlife and peoples' livelihoods. The uncontrolled spread of exotic species in natural ecosystems is known as "bioinvasion" (see WRM Bulletins 18 and 24).
In August 1997 we received bad news from Hawaii: Oji Paper/Marubeni -Japan's largest paper supplier- was about to receive a lease for 4,150 hectares of public land at Hamakua County to set up eucalyptus pulpwood plantations. Oji/Marubeni was also seeking some10,000 hectares of private land leases on the Big Island and elsewhere to produce eucalyptus for chips that would be later exported to Japan for paper production.
In WRM Bulletin nr. 3 (8/8/97) we informed about the struggle of Friends of Hamakua, in conjunction with local farmers and community organizations, to stop eucalyptus plantations planned by Prudential Insurance Co.and Oji/Paper Marubeni in the Big Island of Hawaii. The organization also presented an alternative land use plan for the area. A final decision by the regional authorities was expected. We are very happy to inform that Friends of Hamakua has sent us a postcard containing the following text:
Pulpwood plantations being proposed for the Big Island (Hawaii) are a long way from being real forests, full of a variety of different kinds of mixed ages trees, rich with vegetation and wildlife. Tourists who come to Hawaii for its natural tropical beauty will see instead industrial enclaves of mile after mile of one type of tree, planted in straight, easily harvested rows, kept clear of undergrowth. Fast growing eucalyptus are repeatedly aerial sprayed with poisons, and clear-cut every five to seven years, with the field debris burned.
Amid strong local opposition, eucalyptus plantations are coming to Hawaii. Following a move by Bishop Estate, a huge local landowner, to lease 6400 hectares of ex-sugar lands on the Big Island of Hawai'i to a subsidiary of Prudential Insurance company for eucalyptus pulpwood plantations, the state and county of Hawaii are preparing to offer a rental agreement to Oji Paper/Marubeni on an additional 4150 hectares of public land.