A roughly 1,260-acre parcel in Waiea, on Hawai‘i island has been designated as part of the State Natural Area Reserve (NAR) System managed by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).
The Waiea NAR contains moist koa and ‘ōhi‘a dominated forests on the western flank of Mauna Loa within the South Kona district. It is great habitat for rare forest birds and plants. In fact, wild ʻalalā (Hawaiian crow) were last observed in Waiea.
The new reserve is approximately 1.5 miles mauka(upland) of where Highway 11 (Mamalahoa Hwy) intersects with Ho‘okena Beach Road. While NARs are generally open to everyone for hiking and nature study, this area is currently landlocked by adjacent private land, so currently there is no access.
Waiea is unique because it has distinct seasonality compared to other forests in the NARs system. It evolved under a summer wet season, while most wet forests in Hawaiʻi evolved with a winter wet season.
The NAR system seeks to keep these forests as intact as possible, to preserve plants and wildlife that evolved over millennia to become unique to the islands. Protection of these species perpetuates the cultural practices that evolved with these ancient landscapes.
These native Hawaiian forests absorb rain, providing life-giving water, while reducing erosion onto beaches and reefs below. NARs have the highest levels of protection in the state to ensure that current and future generations can continue to experience these incredible places that make Hawaiʻi so unique.
Individuals interested in learning more and giving back to the NAR system can take an online tour and make donations which will support planting native trees or removing invasive species like rats or feral goats, that can wipe out the last known individuals of extremely rare species. This support is critical for local conservation work.