Rebuilding Koa Forests With the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative
With its unbeatable strength and unique beauty, koa wood is a highly sought-after material by woodworkers and artists, and HPM Building Supply is excited to now offer it at our Big Island stores. By sourcing koa wood from the Hawaiian Legacy Forest on the Big Island, we contribute to the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative’s mission of rebuilding Hawaii’s natural habitats and provide our customers with a distinctive, sustainable product.
A Mission-Driven Product
To help protect our islands’ future, all of the koa wood sold at HPM will be sourced directly from the Hawaiian Legacy Forest and advance the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative's mission. With every 10 board feet of koa wood purchased, HPM will plant a tree in the Hawaiian Legacy Forest. If you buy that amount yourself, you can have a tree planted in your name. Join us in regrowing our native forests.
The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative
Over half of the native forests here in Hawaii have been lost — cut down for building materials or cleared for homes and grazing land. Since 2014, the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative has been dedicated to reversing that damage. Working with community-minded businesses like HPM, other nonprofits, and individual sponsors, the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative has planted more than 500,000 endemic trees covering over 1,000 acres of land in Hawaii’s first Hawaiian Legacy Forest.
Reforestation involves so much more than simply planting trees. Regrowing native Hawaiian trees and plant species rebuilds Hawaii’s natural habitats, where threatened endemic Hawaiian species can thrive once again.
The History of Koa Wood
As a native wood, koa has long been used by Native Hawaiians. “Koa” means “warrior” in Hawaiian.King Kamehameha I and his warriors used koa wood to craft their weapons and canoes. For years following King Kamehameha's unification of the islands, koa wood was so valued that it was reserved for royalty.
Once koa was made available to the masses, the beautiful wood was used in all aspects of island life on the islands, from bowls andeating utensils to canoes, surfboards, and ukuleles.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that koa forests began to run into trouble. Ranchers purchased large parcels of land and cleared the koa trees to make room for their cattle to graze. Livestock, like pigs and goats, which enjoy snacking on young koa seedlings, were introduced All these factors caused great damage and nearly depleted Hawaii’s forests. Today, thanks to a collective community effort, the damage is being reversed, and more koa trees are growing in Hawaii than just a few decades ago.
A Unique Material
Koa’s range of colors and grains, spectacular chatoyancy, and incredible strength place it in high demand for artisans and woodworkers, who use this hardwood for everything from furniture to figurines. Koa can only be grown here in Hawaii and thrives in the higher elevations of the Big Island. The tree’s life cycle makes it a sustainable choice as well. For a koa forest to flourish, older trees at the end of their 50–80 year lifespan must be removed to make room for new, healthy seedlings.
To find the perfect koa wood for your next project, visit any HPM store on the Big Island.