In Kaʻū, plans are in the works for a Koa Canoe Management Area in Kapāpala.
The 1,257-acre area holds special significance as the only state land currently designated for the purposes of cultivating and providing koa wood for traditional Hawaiian canoe construction.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources launched a dedicated website to engage stakeholders online. The site includes virtual exploration tolls, and links to draft mangament plan, as well as the draft environmental assessment.
The DLNR shared this video, recorded on location in the koa forest.
Riley De Mattos, Service Forester, Hawaii Island DOFAW: “This place was set aside back in the 90s I believe. They saw the importance of the area and the culture aspects, and they set aside this area, took it out of the Ka’u Forest Reserve, and then the historical aspects of this place with the canoes. We should be using koa for canoe building. I would hate to see the knowledge and pastime lost if we don’t get canoe logs out to the public and to the canoecarvers.”
According to the documents, the project objectives include protection of the watershed, and bird habitat, and restoration of the koa forest. The State says that under the plan, groups will be able to apply for a permit to harvest a canoe log, which will be reviewed by a panel who will advise the DLNR forestry division on permit allocation. The groups would then harvest and extract the canoe logs with the state guidance.
The State says the panel will consist of cultural practitioners, voyaging and racing canoe club members, canoe builders, foresters, conservationists and community members.
Some non-canoe quality timber resources may be sold to help fund management.
In its video release, the DLNR included an interview with canoe builder Doug Bumatay.
Douglas Bumatay, canoe builder: “My portion of it… I kind of got into it when I was about three years old, when my dad started building his first canoe. He kind of got the bug and learned from his grandfather and his mother kind of helped plant the seed again and get it growing. So as he’s building his canoes, I’m growing up as this little kid, as his little helper, most of the time in his way probably, but that was the start for me, building canoes with him.
“I think about it a lot. We got technology, we got modern tools, modern glues, epoxies, these clear varnishes and all this stuff that they didn’t have before. A lot of the times I’m wondering, ‘how did they do it before? How did they take care of it? How did they prepare it?’ They had a lot of manpower and they had to move stuff. We don’t have that luxury nowadays. We have some machines that we can help.
“It’s density, the characteristics of the wood, the size of the trees that we can get to build the canoes, that’s always a big plus, and of course in our modern rules of our associations in racing, it mandates us to race in koa canoes and to be built out of logs.
“I remember my dad talking about how they used to preserve the wood back in Kalapana when he was a young boy watching his grandfather and some of these concoctions that they would soak the wood in, all that is lost.”
Comments on the Management Plan and draft EA are due by June 7, 2023.