Halepua’a history and restoration

2021 Updates on efforts by MOP member Ann Kobsa and crew on Halepua’a Restoration project in conjunction with the Fruit Tree Growers Foundation:

Video Link

Ann Kobsa’s report during the 2020 MOP in a time of transition presentation:

Halepua’a Section of Nanawale Forest Reserve

NFR is in 3 sections: Kaniahiku, Honolulu and Halepua’a (~700 acres).

In 1979 the DLNR proposed to bulldoze Halepua’a and grow papayas for 3 years, then “Energy Tree Farm.” i.e., eucalyptus for biofuel.

Head of DLNR Forestry Libert Landgraf was so confident he dozed 75 acres while permit was under review.


Botanical survey found 2 significant plants: 25 ‘ohe trees, which were listed as threatened at the time, and


a few colonies of a ha‘iwale species “new to science” later named Cyrtandra nanawalensis after this reserve. Because of the presence of these 2 species, and public outcry, the development proposal was scrapped.


The botanists noted the presence of rock walls in the makai portion of the reserve and in 1982 an archaeological survey was done which recommended preservation of at least the makai portion of the reserve.


Cyrtandra (ha‘iwale) is now a Kilauea volcano endemic species. It was listed endangered 2013 and most of the species was destroyed in the 2018 flow. It is now a PEPP species, which means less than 50 plants remaining.


‘Ohe (Polyscias hawaiensis) was delisted from threatened to nothing, despite drastic reduction in numbers as most were bulldozed by humans or debarked by pigs, so none of the old mamas remain, but I got some seed.

Halepua’a Section of Nanawale Forest Reserve

I bought a property next to Halepua’a in 1999 and immediately started killing fast growing weed trees near me. In 2000, I got involved with Operation Miconia via a volunteer work day, and was introduced to the parts of the reserve bordering RR Ave. I took over miconia control in the reserve from BIISC when they de-prioritized miconia, and in doing transects looking for miconia found all kinds of native plants and a very intact portion of the reserve mauka of RR Ave.

In 2008 I contacted DLNR to see if there was a higher level of protection that could be given to this forest and started working with NARS commissioner Flint Hughes on a proposal to create a lower Puna NAR, consisting of portions of Keauohana, Malama Ki, and Halepua’a. We were making progress by 2013 when ROD started to affect first Malama Ki and Keauohana and then Halepua’a, kind of a deal killer. Then Iselle hit in 2014 and vehicle access to Halepua’a on RR Ave was blocked by fallen trees until the road was opened again as an evacuation route during the 2018 eruption. During the time the road was blocked the pigs set up camp big time and destroyed an area I’d been working on restoring.

Uluhe, hapu’u, and mamaki

Back in 2012, this area had a dense ‘ohi’a canopy with kopiko and lama. I had planted a lot of ha’iwale, hapu’u, mamaki and others that were thriving. When the pigs moved through they killed every ha’iwale plant. I cried. Shortly after, the ‘ohi’a in that area were devastated by ROD and the now the weeds have taken over.

So over the past 8 years my focus has shifted from trying to protect that formerly intact area to malama the area most accessible to me, which also has hala, so there is still some good canopy cover despite ROD. I am re-introducing some of the diversity from the native plant community I saw in the best parts of Halepua’a into this area, where I can help control pigs by killing them on my property.

Nursery, ‘ohe in foreground

I manage a native plant nursery in a greenhouse space donated by my friend and neighbor David Anderson, where I grow ‘ohe (a lot here in the foreground), and…

‘ohi’a in nursery
mamaki, hala
papala kepau

…all species that were present in this forest at some point in the past. We are re-introducing them into the forest. My hope is that these plantings will grow to produce seed of their own. This is already happening with ‘ohe and ‘aki’a. Maybe they will even regenerate naturally.

Nursery trees

The nursery also supplies a similar host of species for other projects. Here’s a collection of trees that went to Keauohana for a tree planting in partnership with Fruit Tree Planting Foundation and Hawai’i Ecosystem Restoration.

‘ohe grove

Here’s a view of an area in Halepa’a that was an old pakalolo grow site and completely dominated by weed trees, which I deforested and am reforesting with ‘ohe and hala.

In 2015 I started establishing barriers to lfa spread into the reserve, because most neighbors now have lfa and no one wants to work in a forest with lfa. This was taking a huge amount of my time so I barely had any time to plant. Fortunately, Matt and Liz came aboard in 2017 and 18 to help with the forest work, including maintaining one of the lfa barriers, and Diga got involved in a big way in 2019. Diga is next up to take you on a tour of the work he’s been doing.

Pat Conant donated nearly 100 hapu’u to this restoration effort.

* * *Learn more about work in Halepua’a.