New plants shade out invasive weeds and create healthier forest structure in Kahanahaiki

MAKUA, Hawaii - Kahanahaiki, a forested gulch along the northwestern ridge of Makua Valley, has recently benefited from the efforts of three Life Scouts as they worked to complete their individual Eagle Scout service projects.

Michael McCaffery, Matthew Greene and Daniel Gum each approached the Oahu Army Natural Resource Program (OANRP) to offer their assistance to protect and restore native forests on Army land. The OANRP welcomed the support and worked with each Scout to design a volunteer service trip that would meet the requirements of an Eagle Scout project and also help to support resource management goals.

Prior to their project dates, each Scout gathered background information on the natural resources of Kahanahaiki. Their research included site visits, surveying, photographing project locations and interviews with OANRP staff. The Scouts were also responsible for recruiting their own volunteers and providing them with project descriptions, job assignments and other essential information.

McCaffery and Greene elected to transplant native koa (Acacia koa) seedlings. On individual days in January, Scouts (along with their group of volunteers), hiked the one-hour trail into Kahanahaiki, carrying tools for planting.

At the planting sites, the Life Scouts put their volunteers to work, digging up the three-inch tall koa seedlings from foot trails and from crowded growing areas, locations that would not support healthy, mature koa trees. Others helped transport and re-plant the seedlings in areas deemed more desirable. A few even helped to gather water from rain-catchment systems, to water each seedling with specially designed back-pack sprayers.

After two full days, the Life Scouts and their volunteers succeeded in planting 300 koa trees in Kahanahaiki.

The third Life Scout, Daniel Gum, chose to help restore the native forest through a planting project, as well. However, instead of seedlings, he chose seeds - 7,000 seeds, to be exact, from the native plant Kookolau (Bidens torta).

OANRP collected the seeds from the forest of Kahanahaiki in the fall. The seeds were cleaned, counted and weighed. This week, Gum will complete the cycle by getting the seeds back to the soil of Kahanahaiki. He will lead his group of volunteers in measuring and marking 14 one-square meter plots in the forest and planting each plot with 500 seeds.

The staff at OANRP appreciate the hard work and dedication demonstrated by the Scouts and the benefits of their projects as a whole. Many have benefited.

The native forest of Kahanahaiki benefit as new Koa and Kookoolau plants will help to shade out the growth of many invasive weeds and restore a healthier structure to the forest.

The volunteers benefit by leaving with a greater understanding of Oahu's native forests and committing to caring for these resources through their day of service.

The Life Scouts benefit, too. McCaffery, Greene and Gum have grown from the many challenges they faced while planning for and managing the service project in the remote forest location. They are on the right path to earning their Eagle Scout honor having learned valuable lessons in project management, wilderness and hiking safety, natural resource management, and leadership skills.