Discovering the Roots of Forestry in Hawaii

by Ron on September 1, 2009

What an interesting month this has been. Only four weeks ago we were wrapping up the Hawaii Conservation Conference (86 presentations now available for free from the iTunes Store, or on line at At that conference, retired forester Bob Merriam was presented with an award from the Society of American Foresters for being a member of our professional organization for 50 years. Bob, on the other hand, gave me a treasure trove of historic documents relating to forestry in Hawaii.

Right before I left for vacation (on August 20th) I scanned about 2000 pages of these documents and have spent the better portion of my time reading them, cross-checking dates, and teasing out the significant points.

I have been on vacation for the last week, but most of my time has been devoted to absorbing these incredible documents and learning the history of forestry in Hawaii. Here’s an interesting item;

August 26, 1889 (report by J. D. Schuyler and G. F. Allardt to Mr. B. F. Dillingham with respect to possible water supplies for the development of sugar plantations at Honouliuli and Kahuku, Page 18)

“THE ARTESIAN WELL SUPPLY: The discovery of the possibility of obtaining a supply of flowing water by deep artesian borings around the margin of this island (Oahu) has been of incalculable value to all property interests, and has compensated in a measure for the loss occasioned by the perpetual robbery of the waters, that fall so copiously upon the mountains by the porous and thirsty earth, and for the water lost during torrential storms by rapid drainage into the sea. On no other island of the group has Nature provided for such compensation, and even here the geological formation is so different from that of any other region the world over where artesian water is obtained by boring that no scientific man would have risked his reputation by predicting the possibility of securing flowing wells by boring in the volcanic and coral formations of this country before success had demonstrated the fact.”

The discovery of “artesian water” on Oahu changed the course of history for Hawaii. From that point on foresters, geologists and the sugar cane barons worked together to create Hawaii’s Forest Reserves with the goal of recharging the groundwater for all time. -Ron

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