HONOLULU – Fifteen years of giving by a Hawaii Island family foundation has generated almost half a million dollars in funding for the protection of 12,000 acres of native forest on the slopes of Mauna Loa.
The Max and Yetta Karasik Family Foundation’s 2019 gift of $45,000 is supporting dramatic and ongoing recovery of The Nature Conservancy’s Kona Hema and Ka‘u preserves, which provide fresh water for people and vital habitat for native forest birds and other native species.
“We are grateful to the Karasik Family Foundation for investing in Hawaii Island’s future by understanding the importance of healthy native forests,” said Nature Conservancy of Hawaii Executive Director Ulalia Woodside in a press release. “Their 2019 donation marks 15 years of giving, totaling nearly $500,000, to improve the forests of south Kona and Ka‘u.”
In 2019, the Conservancy’s 8,240-acre Kona Hema Preserve celebrated its 20th anniversary. Purchased in three parcels between 1999 to 2003, the preserve has been transformed from former pastureland to a thriving native forest. TNC has erected 25 miles of exterior and interior fences, removed all feral animals, cleared 620 acres of invasive weeds, restored 350 acres of pastureland to koa forest, and planted 5,700 native fruit trees and shrubs.
“When we began acquiring Kona Hema, the native forest was inundated with feral animals and heavily impacted by a century of logging and ranching,” said Woodside. “Today, thanks to the Karasik Family Foundation and other supporters, our conservation efforts have resulted in a dramatic forest recovery.”
Among the many positive changes is an upsurge in water recharge. Kona Hema is now contributing 14.5 million gallons of water a day to local aquifers, and scientists say that with continued investment the recharged will only increase.
In addition, the omao, a native thrush, recently established a small population in the preserve after having not been seen in south Kona for 40 years.
The 3,500-acre Ka‘u Preserve was established in 2002 after the Conservancy purchased former C. Brewer lands bordering the State’s Ka‘u Forest Reserve. Its wet koa-ohia forest shelters 153 plant species unique to Hawaii and, in the absence of feral hoofed animals, one of the island’s richest assemblages of endangered forest birds.
“We’re proud to help The Nature Conservancy do what it does best for the future of our island —use science to inform its decisions, adapt to changing circumstances and work with partners to expand their impact,” said Dr. Richard Robbins from the Karasik Family Foundation. “To witness the revitalization of these lands is very rewarding.”
The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii is a private nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of the lands and waters upon which all life depends. TNC has helped to protect more than 200,000 acres of natural lands in Hawaii and Palmyra Atoll.