Paradise Found

Say the word “Hawaii” and most people think sand, surf and sunsets. But look a little closer and you’ll see pasture and rangelands that cover wide swathes of the islands’ interior. The Nature Conservancy has been working for years in Hawaii to restore native areas of forest that have been uprooted by livestock grazing. In 2003, the Conservancy and the National Park Service jointly purchased the Kahuku Ranch (pictured), transferring all 116,000 acres to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the largest private conservation transaction in the state’s history. A sprawling natural wonder, the ranch contains ancient archeological sites, lava flows, and unique mesic, wet and sub-alpine forests. Ranging from about 2,000 to 13,000 feet in elevation, almost to the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano, the area is home to dozens of endangered plant and bird species including the Hawaiian hawk, Hawaiian bat and rare songbirds. Such major efforts have protected the state’s most fragile ecosystems—ensuring a future beyond high-rise hotels and cocktails on the beach.

Photo: Adriel Helsey