Post-Fire Native Revegetation

Post-Fire Native Revegetation

This past August, a wildfire burned a total of 18,000 acres in South Kohala and approached the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve on our mauka boundary. This is something that we have been preparing for and luckily, the fuelbreaks that we maintain as a buffer around the preserve kept the fire from reaching our restoration areas and native trees despite the high winds and limited access by fire-fighting personnel. Unfortunately, the fire did cross our buffers in the southeast corner of the preserve and 21.5 acres of predominantly invasive grasses were burned. This area, a remote pāhoehoe flow, was largely unmanaged before the fire due to difficulties accessing and planting and the lack of native plants in the vicinity. Much of what burned in the area was fountain grass, a fire-adapted, invasive species that has become dominant in Waikoloa over the past century. Fountain grass does not typically die in a fire and if left untreated, the grass would soon re-sprout and grow back vigorously, however, the seeds do not survive a fire. This gave us the opportunity to attempt revegetation with native plants through seed broadcasting by controlling the regrowth with herbicide and creating a window for native plants to regenerate before being the area is reinvaded by invasive grasses.

The first step was to control the invasive grass regrowth before the plants were able to flower and produce seeds. Subsequent rainfall caused the grass to grow back quickly so we had to rely on partners to help get the 22 acres controlled as quickly as possible. We then invited our volunteers to come out and help us collect over one million seeds from within the forest preserve. We also looked to our conservation partners and seed banks to help us amass additional native seeds to broadcast in the burned area. Once collected, we cleaned, sorted, weighed and divided seeds from nine different species selected for their ability to colonize barren areas. We divided the seeds into 44 packages to be scattered systematically in half-acre plots throughout the burned area. Again, we called upon our partners and volunteers to help us do this work. In the end, we scattered millions of seeds throughout the 21.5-acre area and in a half-acre trial plot outside of the fence that will test our methods in the presence of feral goats. Now, we wait. Over the next years, we will be tracking the progress of this effort by sampling vegetation plots throughout the area. What we hope to see is the slow recolonization by native ‘aʻaliʻi, ʻilima, ʻāweoweo and other natives that haven’t been seen in this area for decades. Already, we are seeing the native pili grass, ‘uhaloa and others are starting to regenerate. We are hopeful that this method will be effective and that we can start to refine a post-fire action plan for revegetating with native plants that can be used by other land managers in the fire-prone areas of our islands.

-Contributed by Jen Lawson, Executive Director, WDFI

Learn, Plant, Grow!

Please consider making a contribution to our Learn, Plant, Grow initiative this year. You can read more about our program below or visit our webpage here. 

Our Future Foresters program is an absolute joy to host! The students that participate in the program learn about the natural and cultural history of Waikoloa, they plant trees that will become the future forest of our ‘ili, and they grow as learners, as friends, and as stewards of the unique environment in their own backyard.

This year, we have more students enrolled in our Future Foresters program than ever before with 56 students per week, every week, throughout the school year! These students learn to identify plants, birds, and insects while exploring in the forest and our lessons encourage them to go deeper into the history, lifecycle and cultural relevance of these amazing creatures. They take field trips to inspiring places, and they make connections between the preserve that they know well and other efforts to protect natural resources on the island. 

Education is a rewarding and important part of our strategy to preserve, protect and restore our native dry forest. By raising awareness, connecting people with place, and providing opportunities to experience the forest and participate in restoration, we are ensuring that there will be a community to support our efforts and to steward the forest into the future. Empowering people with knowledge and training has inspired many volunteers, classes, and businesses to join us in replanting the forest. The Future Foresters are some of our youngest participants, and they too, are making a real difference in the forest and in our community. 

Thank you for considering a donation to support our educational programs. Future Foresters is always free to students and families and we strive to include as many students as we can by rotating children on the waiting list into the program when possible and visiting classrooms with our interactive lessons. Your contribution helps us to reach and teach these students with fun activities that convey the importance of environmental stewardship to the next generation!

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is an exempt organization as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; EIN # 45-2589264

Your donation may be tax deductible. 

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative’s Learn, Plant, Grow program is supported in part by Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s Aloha ‘Aina Program. 

Dusty Donkey Luncheon!

Dusty Donkey Luncheon!

We’re hosting a fun luncheon to celebrate the Dusty Donkey Emporium and raise money for our thrift shop and the Waikoloa Dry Forest. Sunday, November 25th from 11:30am-1:30pm at the Waikoloa Stables, home of the Dusty Donkey EmporiumWe’ll be serving a tasty menu and bubbly beverages with entertainment and an exclusive silent auction featuring many unique treasures. Tickets are only $35 and all proceeds benefit WDFI! Please purchase your tickets, or reserve a table for 8, in advance on our webpage. 


Wasps & Wiliwili

Across the state and out in the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve, a small wasp is causing huge problems for our beloved wiliwili. By now, many of us have heard of the invasive pest that has been badly damaging Hawai`i’s wiliwili tree, but for those of us that haven’t- that pest is the Erythrina Gall Wasp (EGW). After first being observed in Hawai`i in 2005, this tiny wasp (smaller than an ant) began laying its eggs into the new stems, leaves, and inflorescence of both our native and non-native coral tree species. A substantial amount of Waikoloa’s wiliwili were killed by these infestations within the first few years, but luckily the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture was able to quickly identify, locate, research, and release a known predator to the gall wasp- the Eurytoma Parasitoid Wasp. Yes- a wasp that attacks and destroys another wasp!

The eurytoma parasitoid wasp seeks out the galls on wiliwili and lays its eggs into said galls so that its larvae can feed upon the EGW larvae before they can emerge as a fully formed wasp. Eurytoma were first released in 2008, and provide an excellent example of what a successful biocontrol is meant to be. The parasitoid wasps quickly began finding galls and laying eggs and a dramatic decrease in gall wasp infestation was seen. Over the past 10 years since the original biocontrol release, and the rate at which wiliwili were dying due to EGW infestation was significantly reduced and a new equilibrium was attained. We still observe both gall wasp and the eurytoma, but what we now see is an ebb and flow in which the EGW populations begin to rise, shortly followed by an increase in eurytoma population, and the eventual tapering off of the wasp populations as eurytoma eradicates the EGW and food sources become scarce.

However, the gall wasps continue to be a problem- especially during the flowering time for our wiliwili. Currently, as the wiliwili begin to send out their flower buds, the EGW begin to infest the new tissues of the inflorescence, and the Eurytoma just can’t ramp up their numbers before the harm is done. Although the wiliwili are no longer dying, the EGW are still causing significant damage to the inflorescence- resulting in aborted flower buds, improperly formed fruit, and ultimately lower than expected seed production.

This year, the staff at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative has decided to take the next step in the battle against the gall wasps and have undertaken a new and potentially groundbreaking project to raise and release Eurytoma during this flowering period to curtail the gall wasps and maximize the available wiliwili seed set to ensure lasting wiliwili for generations to come. We’re finishing up this year’s project and will be sharing the results soon!


-Contributed by Robert Yagi, Preserve Manager for Waikoloa Forest Initiative

Future Foresters

The Future Foresters program is in full swing at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve! This year started off with a bang with an impressive amount of student interest in our afterschool program. With so many eager applicants, we extended our program to four days a week to accommodate the demand. Currently, 56 students ranging from fourth through seventh grade make their way to the preserve each week to participate in our outdoor learning curriculum.

Our first sessions consisted of our new and returning students becoming familiar with the abundance of native plants that now reside within the dry forest preserve. As we hiked through the vegetation, students marveled at the size and age of the wiliwili trees as well as the amount of effort, time and dedication it takes to restore a dryland forest ecosystem that has all but disappeared. We went on to discuss the importance of scientific observation and how to properly record this information in their field notebooks. Each student was given the opportunity to adopt a specific plant to monitor and continue to care for throughout the year. Students recorded information about their native plants, including their traditional uses, species characteristics and Hawaiian name. As many of the students have found out, eradicating non-native plants is a large part of making sure native dryland species thrive. They are more than eager to regularly don work gloves and pickaxes to help remove these harmful intruders.

As our preserve boasts a somewhat difficult climate and terrain, safety remains a main priority during our program. During our first aid lesson, the students learned how to properly prevent and respond to field related injuries. Through various scenarios, the students were able to put their skills to the test when responding to minor abrasions, open wounds, broken bones, and heat-related illnesses. Each week, one student is selected to be the medic. Their role is to carry the first aid kit, wear the medic armband and serve as the first responder to any and all injuries that may occur that day. The students have shown great responsibility in this task and take pride in making sure their fellow foresters remain safe on our excursions.

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is not only committed to the restoration of the tropical dry forest habitat, but to ensuring that these resources are around for generations to come. Our mission in the Future Foresters program is to provide a science and conservation-based curriculum meant to foster the next generation of environmental stewards. For as we know, “E mālama ‘ia nā pono o ka ‘āina e na ‘ōpio”– the traditions of the land are perpetuated by its youth.


Contributed by Jackie Milligan,  Education Coordinator for Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative

Beer, Bites & Bocce!

Beer, Bites & Bocce!

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative’s 2nd Annual Bocce Ball Tournament held at Anna Ranch in Waimea on Sunday, September 23rd. Join us for another year of fabulous food, fantastic beer, and friendly competition! Get your tickets here!

General admission includes access to our complimentary food booths featuring a diverse array of gourmet foods, a locally brewed beer from Big Island Brewhaus, fun games and seating in our spectator section! Players can sign up as individuals or as a team of four. When you sign up as a team, your ticket includes admission, tournament entry and a custom insulated beer cup and two fills from the bar for each player!

The Bocce Ball Tournament will be a double elimination challenge with timed matches. This year, we will be sending rules and regulations out to players and volunteer referees in advance! Stay all day for the championship rounds with prizes for the top four finishing teams! We’ll also be awarding prizes to the best-dressed team, so whether fancy or silly, plan to be fabulous!

Show your support for conservation of Hawaii’s unique dryland forest while showing off your bocce ball skills and enjoying delicious food and beverage at the

beautiful Anna Ranch. Get Tickets!


2017-2018 Planting Season-A Letter From Our Preserve Manager

2017-2018 Planting Season-A Letter From Our Preserve Manager

To our wonderful community,

              To begin, I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to everyone that supported and volunteered their time to help plant this past year’s 5-acre restoration area! It truly was a great undertaking, and with everyone’s help, it has thus far been a huge success. This has been my second year of planting since joining the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative’s staff, and I am still very humbled and left in awe by this amazing community that dedicates so much of their time and resources to enhance these dryland forest ecosystems.
               This year’s planting area was especially challenging, with its jagged a’a substrate and seemingly few pockets of soil, yet has proven to be quite suitable for the native plant species that now live there.  In total, we planted a variety of 24 different plant species, including 9 types of endangered species. Overall, from November 2017 to April of 2018, we were able to plant over 1500 native plants across the 5 acres with roughly 75-80% of them surviving through the summer.
               Each year, we give a name to restoration area that we’ve been working on, and after much thought, the 2017/2018 planting area has received its name- Hālāwai. In one meaning of the word, Hālāwai refers to the horizon line, a place where the earth and sky meet each other. From our pavilion area, the Hana Hou Hale, the interior portion of the planting area raises up and forms one of the more prominent horizon line features on the landscape, so we’ve always considered this area of the preserve to be “on the horizon”. In another sense of the word, Hālāwai can also mean to meet or to have a meeting, and on a more personal note, this is where the name truly resonates with me. When joining the WDFI team two years ago, I bore witness to the great coming together of the community. It was inspiring to see such a passionate community come together to accomplish our shared vision of forest restoration. This year, I have felt as though I have actually joined that community. Through all of the volunteer planting, trail making, and service days restoring the area of Hālāwai, I got to meet with so many members of this great community and connected with many of you on a much deeper level. It is with the utmost gratitude that I thank Hālāwai and the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve for providing the space in which these great connections could be made.
               Once again, thank you to each and every one of you for making this great project possible. Also, I’d like to thank our Executive Director, Jen, and the WDFI Board of Directors for being the great stewards that make our shared dream become reality.

A hui hou,

-Rob Yagi

Community Notice: WDFI applies for 21st CCLC grant

This notice is to inform the public that the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is applying for the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant to support our afterschool programming that serves the Waikoloa Area. If approved, our programs will provide students with academic enrichment opportunities to help them become proficient in core academic areas and provide them with unique experiential learning opportunities that help connect the students and their families with the community and natural environment.

Our program includes a field based program at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve as well as an on-campus program that includes outdoor learning opportunities.

If you have suggestions about this program please contact Jen Lawson, Executive Director by email or phone. (808) 494-2208.

WDFI is Hiring!

WDFI is Hiring!

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is seeking an enthusiastic Education Coordinator for our unique children’s environmental educational program the Waikoloa Future Foresters. This is an afterschool program that holds meetings in the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve four days per week and provides regular presentations and programs at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School. The program gives children the opportunity to learn and explore outdoors and incorporates environmental sciences, Hawaiian culture and land stewardship. The coordinator will be responsible for program development and instruction and will supervise and teach up to 20 children in grades 4-7 per session. This position will involve administration of the program, collaboration with Department of Education employees, teachers, parents, students and community members. This position will also involve collaboration with Department of Education employees and the supervision of WDFI volunteers and paid staff.

Please see the full job description and application instructions:

WDFI Education Coordinator Job Announcement