by Myles Ritchie, Graduate Intern
Natural, beautiful and majestic: these are the characteristics defining the many varieties of Exceptional Trees throughout Hawai`i. From koa to monkeypod, this state is fortunate to have trees that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but extremely beneficial to society.
Knowing the location and physical characteristics of the various exceptional trees across the state is crucial to documenting and understanding the benefits of protecting our urban trees. In response to this need, The Outdoor Circle has begun a statewide Exceptional Tree Mapping (ETM) project which aims to do just this with the hopes of maintaining and increasing the beauty of Hawaii.
Benefits of Exceptional Trees
In an ever-increasing urbanized environment, the need for trees (especially exceptional ones), has never been more apparent. In such urban areas, trees can help offset the heat island effect by reducing the average air temperature under a tree’s canopy by 5-10°F and the surface temperature of a paved road by 35°F. Furthermore, these trees are able to not only remove increasing levels of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and replace it with oxygen, but also other harmful pollutants such as: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Trees are also able to prevent stormwater runoff, which is a significant vector for pollutants in streams and nearshore waters. Reducing stormwater runoff occurs as a result of the increase in available permeable surfaces that trees provide when compared to alternatives such as paved roads. The roots of trees also hold valuable topsoil in place, which is essential to the tree’s survival, along with the ability to facilitate future growth of vegetation in the area.
Aside from the benefits trees provide for the environment, they are also helpful when it comes to the mental and physical well-being of humans. Countless studies have shown that surrounding oneself with trees and other natural settings improvements: cognitive function, learning capabilities (especially in children) and memory skills. These studies have also shown that exposure to natural environments reduces stress levels and reduces depression symptoms as effectively as anti-depressants. Most interestingly, studies show that having access to this natural resource helps to facilitate community interaction and involvement.
The Exceptional Tree Act
Established in 1975 with the help of The Outdoor Circle, the Exceptional Tree Act designates an exceptional tree as “a tree, stand or grove of trees with historic or cultural value, or that by reason of age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality or endemic status, designated by a county arborist advisory committee as worthy of preservation”. Currently there are over 1000 exceptional trees throughout the Hawaiian Islands; with more about to be added to the registry when Bill 84 adopted by the Honolulu City Council. While the majority of these trees reside on Oahu (926), each of the other major islands also hosts many exceptional trees. Though large, this number does not reflect the many trees in Hawaii that are worthy of exceptional tree status. It is critical to add new exceptional trees to the list through the nomination process.
The nomination process for exceptional trees is a fairly easy process to complete and offers incentives for homeowners wishing to nominate a tree on their property. The first step is for landowners to fill out a tree nomination form. Then, a certified city arborist assesses the tree and the Arborist Committee makes a recommendation to the County Council on whether to recognize the tree. Once approved by County Council, a tree owner can receive a tax break of up to $3,000 every three years. Additional information about the nomination process, as well as county nomination forms are available at this link.
The Exceptional Tree Mapping Project
In response to the need for an interactive map that can be easily accessed by the general public, as well as a database consisting of useful information related to the state’s exceptional trees, The Outdoor Circle has begun its Exceptional Tree Mapping project. Over the next several months, each tree will be verified and data from each tree will be gathered. This process involves physically visiting each registered tree and obtaining various characteristics including: geographic coordinates, height, circumference, condition and any other notable facts when available (year planted, who planted it, etc…). This data is complied into our open-source ETM database. Click here to see the map and learn more about our process.
We need your help
The Outdoor Circle is looking for community support to gather data about these exceptional trees. For those wishing to volunteer, click here, which includes a PDF of how to obtain data in the field, as well as a FAQ section.
The Outdoor Circle will be holding an Exceptional Tree Map volunteer training exercise on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 9 am outside of the Iolani Palace Band Stand. For those wishing to attend this exercise, please RSVP by emailing TreeMap@outdoorcircle.org and prepare to have an exciting couple hours learning about ground-truthing and other aspects of conducting fieldwork!
With the completion of the Exceptional Tree Map, The Outdoor Circle hopes to increase the number of nominations for exceptional trees, helping to preserve one of the state’s most valuable and beneficial natural resources. The Outdoor Circle hopes to not only provide a valuable resource to the general public who wish to learn more about exceptional trees, but also to identify areas in need of tree nominations. Public participation is essential for the long-term success of the Exceptional Tree Map project and hopefully this interactive map is the first step in obtaining this much desired long-term goal.
Culvert City in Los Angeles was featured in CityLab's article "You want your city to thrive? Look to its trees". It is a very informative, quick read that highlights the valuable information we can learn about our urban forests through the i-Tree program developed by the USDA. Check it out and find out the economy value of the trees in your yard and throughout your community.
The article also highlights the value of old-growth trees to the overall health of cities and the need to have an urban forest master plan to ensure our cities' forests thrive for future generations.
Of course, most interesting to us is what CityLab had to say about tree maps -- and it is all good:
"Mapping exercises are incredibly useful for urban forestry," says Pamela Palmer, a landscape architect and president of Artecho, the design firm that's working with Culver City on its plan. "They help us fine-tune which trees to plant where and identify areas where a change in planting strategy is needed." Herbertson adds that easy-to-read maps and charts generated from Culver City's tree inventory have been effective tools for generating public interest and feedback, and believes they'll encourage buy-in and approval from the city council.
And not to put too fine a point on it, they reminded us that:
Increasingly, cities have recognized that trees provide not only environmental benefits and curb appeal—they're also good for business.
DLNR needs your help! The Outdoor Circle and more than 20 other advocacy groups oppose the nomination of Carleton Ching as Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Hawai‘i’s natural resources are our most valuable asset, they deserve expert management.
The Senate Committee on Water and Land is accepting testimony from the public for a confirmation hearing on March 11, 2015 at 10AM in room 229 at the State Capitol.
Click here to get involved!
We recognize that some senators may find it difficult to oppose this nomination because they were once close colleagues with former-Senator, now-Governor Ige. That is why it is so important for each of us to get involved and help our Senators make the best decision for Hawai‘i’s people. You have likely seen the news articles and opinion pieces criticizing the nomination of Mr. Ching to lead Hawai‘i’s natural resource agency. We are very concerned that Mr. Ching lacks the familiarity with natural resources and commitment to conservation that is necessary to successfully lead DLNR.
DLNR’s mission is to:
“Enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of the people of Hawaii nei…”.
The department’s jurisdiction encompasses nearly 1.3 million acres of State lands, beaches, and coastal waters. It is responsible for all conservation districts, state parks, all historic resources, forests, all wildlife and their sanctuaries, hunting and game management, fishing, boating and other ocean programs, and natural area reserves. This department conducts high-end scientific research, spearheads public education campaigns, and implements tough resource management decisions all with the goal of ensuring the public’s interest in our common resources are protected.
The Director of DLNR chairs the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Commission on Water Resources Management, and is the chief historic preservation officer. The Director is responsible for ensuring DLNR follows all public hearing and disclosure requirements and satisfies all constitutional requirements under the public trust doctrine.
Chronic under-funding of this important department has led to long-term staff shortages. These shortages, along with systemic failures to follow basic legal requirements in past decisions, contributed to multiple, major lawsuits against the department costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Mr. Ching is the Wrong Choice
Mr. Ching has not dedicated his career to cultivating an expertise in natural resources management. Quite the opposite, he has spent his career developing Hawai‘i’s natural resources. On behalf of billionaire David Murdoch, Mr. Ching lobbied for wind farms on conservation land and 3,500 homes on 575 acres of highly productive farmland. In his free time, Mr. Ching leads the Land Use Research Foundation (LURF) -- he served as President in 2008 and Vice President in 2009 and 2010. This lobby group advocated to:
For a department already besieged by immense challenges, it is not wise to appoint a director who is not naturally in sync with the mission and responsibilities of the department.
Our concern over this appointment is focused on an objective assessment of the agency’s needs and the nominee’s record and does not call into question Mr. Ching’s integrity. Having talked story with Mr. Ching, we found him to be an extremely nice person. However, we know that being a nice guy has little to do with spearheading an agency fundamental to the health and wealth of our islands. This is why we are asking Senators to not confirm Mr. Ching’s nomination.
Ready to Collaborate
We look to the Governor’s Administration to re-think this appointment and re-double its efforts to seek out and seat top talent to lead Hawaii’s agencies. During the campaign, this Administration committed to fulfilling its obligations through collaboration. We, at TOC, 100% support the collaborative, proactive approach to problem-solving. We look forward to sitting down with the Administration as soon as possible to help find a suitable nominee for the Director of DLNR.
More about the Confirmation Process
The Senate Committee on Water and Land will accept public testimony on the nomination of Mr. Ching on March 11, 2015 starting at 10AM in room 229 at the State Capitol. Click here to find out about parking and transportation options to the Capitol.
You can submit your testimony to the Committee by clicking here or going directly to Hawaii State Legislature GM514 and sign-in to submit testimony online.
After hearing all the testimony, the Committee will vote whether to recommend Mr. Ching be confirmed as Director of DLNR. Then a vote of the entire Senate will be scheduled to consider the Committee’s recommendation and make a final determination. You are encouraged to directly contact your Senator to express your concern about appointing Mr. Ching to DLNR. (Find out who is your senator). Call your senator today!
Other things you can do right now
• Forward this information to your friends and family
• Send your testimony to all senators by clicking here
• Express your concern directly to Governor Ige by clicking here
• Join the discussion on social media: #saveDLNR
• Submit your testimony as a letter to editor to our local publications by emailing the following:
Pacific Business Journals
If you are interested in getting more involved, click here to contact TOC’s office staff and find out when we are meeting next to discuss this issue.
"Ige Picks Castle & Cooke Executive to Head DLNR", Gordon Y.K. Pang, Star Advertiser, Jan 23, 2015
"Groups Oppose Ige's Land and Natural Resources Nominee", Audrey McAvoy, Star Adverstiser, Jan 26, 2015
"Why I am unable to support an honorable man," Gary Hooser, Feb. 1, 2015.
"Third look at Gov. Ige's DLNR Nomination," Ian Lind, iLind Blog, Feb 4, 2015
"Ige's Department of Land and Natural Resources Development," Karen Chun, The Hawaii Independent, Feb 4, 2015
"Is Carleton Ching the Man to Protect Hawaii's Public Lands?", Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat, February 12, 2015
The Honolulu Rapid Transit Project is beset by a litany of bad news. From Council members' failure to disclose gifts from Rail advocates ahead of the vote to approve the Rail project to the realization that the rail project is a nearly billion dollars over-budget, the future of the project is far from certain.
In case you missed it, here is some of the stories making headlines around the Rail project:
Ethics Probe Could Threaten Votes on Rail and Other Projects, KITV News, January 23, 2015.
Council stripped federal bus funds from rail project, Honolulu Star Advertiser, January 31, 2015.
Get Realistic Rail Budget or Buck Stops Here, David Shapiro, Honolulu Star Advertiser, January 11, 2015. (paid content)
Caldwell, HART maintain haphazard rail budget path, David Shapiro, Honolulu Star Advertiser, February 8, 2015
Don't Extend the Transit Tax to Pay for Honolulu Rail, Civil Beat February 15, 2015.
Our volunteer force and The Outdoor Circle staff thank-you for your membership and continued support of our mission, now 104 years old, to help keep Hawai'i clean, green and beautiful. It has never been more important to support sensible and sustainable Land Use policies, which are at risk of erosion.
Thanks to our capable Executive Director Marti Townsend and our Public Affairs Chair Rep. Barbara Marumoto, we have a legislative agenda that she, our interns and our Public Affairs Committee volunteers will follow. It is good to be on the lookout for our Legislative Session E-Alerts so you can learn about how policy is made and changed and have a hand in providing testimony on issues important to you
Marti and I attended the 2015 Keep America Beautiful Awards and national Conference in January. Though we arrived in 7 degree temperatures, we had a fabulous time representing The Outdoor Circle and Hawai'i in receiving a Community Service Award. KAB noted that Hawai'i is just the second state to vote in an Environmental Court (Vermont is the other) and that we are a vanguard to inspire other states to follow in suit.
While in DC, we had the opportunity to share The Outdoor Circle concerns with Rep. Mark Takai, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Brian Schatz, whose office took us on a special tour of the capitol.
There is a lot of work to get done this Legislative session, and we would love your help in putting your money where our mouth is. We promise to do our very best to protect the good policies and help change the defective ones.
Thank you, Governor Ige, for taking a stand on something so obviously good for Hawaii's environment and our bottom-line: a paperless state government! Here at The Outdoor Circle we have made similar moves to reduce our costs and ecological footprint. We 100% support the Governor's position and will help him implement it.
In his State of the State address to the people of Hawaii in January, Governor Ige said:
I remember when I was in the Senate, we committed to going paperless and eliminating millions of unnecessary sheets of paper and its related costs. It was not an easy transition and it was tough to change the way we always did things for decades. But we did.
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.