His Excellency Governor
I have the honor to forward herewith my report upon the
condition of the Hawaiian Islands for your consideration.
During the course of my preliminary examination, I visited
the Islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Molokai, and paid
particular attention to investigating the rapid destruction
of the forests. I feel perfectly satisfied that the
indiscriminate ranging of cattle in the forests have been
very largely responsible for the present conditions, and
that the sure remedy will be to fence off the forests and
confine the cattle to the lower slopes.
/s/ E.M. Griffith
Bureau of Forestry
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Formerly, the Hawaiian Islands were covered with dense and
almost impenetrable forests which covered the steep ridges
and deep canyons extending down to the narrow strip of
arable land along the coasts and up to an elevation of 8,000
to 9,000 feet on the highest mountains. Ever-running streams
and springs occurred on all the islands and the rainfall was
fairly even and much heavier than it is today.
The old chiefs began the destruction of the forests by
cutting enormous quantities of sandalwood but the blanks
were soon filled up by other forest trees. The rapidity with
which the native Hawaiian forest can be absolutely destroyed
is truly remarkable and peculiar to the islands.
Dense forests which were absolutely impassable have, within
the short space of five to ten years, been completely wiped
out, so that at the present time, the soil is covered with a
thick matting of grass. This comes from the fact that all
the natives trees have a very shallow root system so that
the least drying up of the soil immediately affects their
In nearly all sections of the islands, the undergrowth is
composed largely of a dense mass of ferns which absorbs a
very large amount of moisture thus affording a most
favorable protection to the soil.
Stock, particularly cattle, are responsible for the
destruction of the forests in as much as they eat and
trample down the ferns and other undergrowth, thus allowing
the soil to become dry and often hardened under the full
force of the hot tropical sun so that the roots begin to dry
up and the trees naturally die. The worst feature, however,
is that as soon as the undergrowth is killed out, the heavy
Hilo grass immediately covers the soil and forms such a
thick mat that it is impossible for seed to reach the soil
and germinate. Then the life of the forest simply depends on
how long the old trees can survive, for as soon as they fall
the space which they occupied in the forest is taken
possession of by the grasses.
Stock also destroy many trees by stripping off the bark and
by injuring the roots which they have already exposed by
trampling. Another very bad feature of pasturing stock in
the forests is that they eat and trample down the young
In a virgin forest where no stock have been allowed to
graze, with very few exceptions, the only trees which are
dying are those which would naturally do so from old age.
The virgin Hawaiian forest is healthy, but where stock have
destroyed the undergrowth the trees are dying in great
numbers and are found to be attacked by insects particularly
borers and the large girdling worms.
Insects can readily be collected by breaking off the limb of
a tree or injuring it in some other way. The forests which
are being attacked by insects are those whose vitality has
been affected in some other way, usually by stock grazing.
After investigating the matter very carefully I should say
that stock are alone responsible for the rapid destruction
of the forests. This is readily admitted by those who have
studied the matter carefully and from an unprejudiced point
of view; so that it seems essentially wrong that the welfare
of the whole islands should be sacrificed to benefit the
cattle business which forms such a small part of the
commercial prosperity of the islands.
With a few exceptions the forests are only valuable in
conserving the water supply and increasing the rainfall. Koa
and algaroba are the only two species which occur in
sufficient quantities to be of any considerable commercial
Koa is a high grade cabinet wood with a very handsome grain
and capable of a high polish while the algaroba furnishes
the bulk of the firewood for the islands.
The algaroba grows very well at low elevations, particularly
on the leeward side of Oahu and it would pay the government
to plant it on rocky or denuded areas which are unsuited to
any form of agriculture.
The chief characteristic of the native species is their
small size averaging only fifteen to twenty inches in
diameter and thirty to 40 feet in height, together with the
short length of clear bole. As a rule the side branches
extend low down on the trunk which is accounted for from the
fact that the trees have grown up in open stands.
Ohia occurs far more frequently than any other species and
together with kukui, koa, mamane and hala forms the bulk of
the forest, while the undergrowth is composed very largely
As the forest of the Hawaiian Islands contain such a very
limited amount of merchantable timber, the question of the
best methods of lumbering does not enter into consideration;
the whole problem is conserving the water supply which
depends upon the preservation of the existing forests and
restocking some of the denuded slopes either by natural
reproduction or planting.
During the course of my preliminary examination the forest
areas on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Molokai were
examined, particular attention being paid to the condition
of the forests along the headwaters of all streams.
Forest protection means not only increasing the rainfall
but--more important still--conserving the water supply. Upon
the right solution of this problem depends to a very large
extent the future welfare and agricultural prosperity of the
Hawaiian Islands. Sugar, the backbone of the islands,
comprising over 80% of the exports, is absolutely dependent
upon a plentiful and constant supply of water. The planter
who does not depend upon the natural rainfall but irrigates
his cane is apt to think that forest protection does not
directly affect his business; but in reality he should be
far more solicitous about the preservation of the forest
than the planter who depends on the rainfall, for whether he
is taking his water from a stream or an artesian well his
supply will be very quickly affected by any disturbance of
the forest cover along the important watersheds.
Particularly is this the case where water is being taken
from a stream whose headwaters lie within the forest belt,
which is the case with most of the streams on the
Fluming cane is by far the cheapest means of transportation,
for this reason to many plantations it is of vital necessity
that their supply of water be at least held constant and
increased if possible. The stockman or farmer and those
engaged in growing rice or taro are also dependent, though
not to the same extent as the sugarcane planter, upon a
water supply which shall be fairly constant through all
seasons of the year.
As previously stated, the denudation of the Hawaiian forests
has been brought about to a very large extent by the
practice of pasturing stock in the forests. Certainly this
has been admitted by those who have studied the question and
it is believed that fencing and the absolute exclusion of
all stock is the only sure remedy. There is no necessity for
abandoning the cattle business in order to protect the
forests, but the cattle must be confined to the lower
It is especially important that fences should be built along
the upper limits of the forest in order to prevent the wild
cattle, sheep and goats which at present are ranging on the
higher grass slopes from working down into the forests.
Wherever fences have already been built, the reclamation of
the forests is as surprisingly rapid as their destruction
when stock are allowed to range freely. As previously
stated, the first effort should be to fence and protect
those forests along the headwaters of all the important
In order to place the work upon a thoroughly efficient
basis, it will be necessary for the government, planter,
ranchers and all others owning or leasing land upon which
water is the chief consideration to cooperate and see to it
that the forests are thoroughly protected.
A. Hawaii (the island). During the three weeks which
were spent in the examination of Hawaii, I was enabled
through the courtesy of the plantation and ranch managers
throughout the island to visit all the districts and obtain
a general idea of the conditions of the forests and what was
being done to preserve them. In treating the forest problems
of this island, the various districts will be considered in
their order commencing with Hamakua.
A1. Hamakua. This district extends from the northern
slope of Mauna Loa, north to the sea and includes the
greater portion of Mauna Kea which rises to an elevation
During the summer of 1901, a considerable portion of the
forest lying between Mauna Kea and the coast on the north
was burned over very severely. There is very little question
but that most of the trees in this section are so badly
burned that they will die and blow down, thus furnishing
fuel for succeeding forest fires. The undergrowth had been
destroyed by cattle so that the fire had swept; in fact, if
this had been a virgin forest with a rank undergrowth it
would probably have been impossible to set it on fire. The
forest had been so opened up by cattle that it died out
thoroughly as is proved by the almost complete destruction
of the humus so that the bare soil is now exposed. This
latter result would be extremely favorable to the natural
restocking of this burned area by self-sown seed but, very
unfortunately, cattle are grazing in the forest and will
destroy any young growth which may come up.
Within the present generation, forest fires have been almost
unknown in the Hawaiian Islands but the indiscriminate
pasturing of cattle in the forests makes their destruction
by fire not only possible but extremely probable either
through malice or carelessness in burning brush, cane trash
or by camping parties.
A large part of the burned forest is on government land
which has been leased until 1906, but it is extremely
important that the government should induce the lessee, by
an extension of time on his cane land lease or in some other
way, to absolutely exclude cattle from this forest and
protect it by fencing.
The forests in the remainder of the northern portion of the
district of Hamakua are being rapidly destroyed by cattle,
both wild and tame, so that the whole section within a few
years will be a continuation of the Waimea plains unless
adequate means are taken to protect the forests from
The wild cattle, sheep and pigs should be driven down from
the mountains and the forests preserved by fencing.
On the north slopes of Mauna Kea, the mamane forest is
spreading itself rapidly and appears to be holding out
against the cattle, which is truly remarkable inasmuch as it
is the only case of the kind which was seen anywhere on the
islands. The mamane is a tough mountain tree and it is
believed that it could be used to good advantage in
restocking denuded slopes.
Between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa the extensive plain or table
land is covered with a rather broken growth of ohia, with
scattering koa and mamane, while both mountain slopes are
fairly heavily timbered.
On the whole the forests of Hamakua are in very poor
condition and in some section fast disappearing solely on
account of cattle grazing and the consequent forest
A2. North Kohala. The Kohala mountains which extend
northwest and southeast through the district were formerly
covered with very dense forests which were practically
impassable except by cutting trail with cane knives. Cattle,
however, have absolutely destroyed all the forests on the
lower slopes and are rapidly denuding the forests on the
higher slopes. In order to save any of the remaining
forests, they should be fenced off and protected as soon as
possible. On the lower slopes which have been absolutely
denuded, artificial restoration will be necessary.
Some of the planters in this district have fenced their
forests, but concerted action on the part of the government,
planters and ranchers will be necessary in order to save the
A3. South Kohala. The Kohala mountains extend along
the northern portion of this district, but here too the
forests have been very badly damaged by the cattle. The
central and southern portion include the Waimea plans and
the open grazing country west of Mauna Kea. On all sides of
Waimea the country is a rolling plain which is
unquestionably suited to agriculture and should not be
covered with forests. But this fine agricultural land will
be almost useless unless a constant water supply is assured
and this can only be accomplished by carefully protecting
the forests on the Kohala mountains, particularly north of
the village of Waimea.
At present, cattle are being run on this range and it is
possible to ride through a large portion of the forest which
a few years ago was impassable. Here, as elsewhere, there is
no necessity for abandoning the cattle business but it
should be carried on with much more system, with paddocks or
na open range on the plains and the mountain forests
protected from all grazing.
A4. Kona. This district is covered to a very large
extent with lava flows a very restricted area of land
suitable for any form of agriculture and nor running streams
of any importance. Here the need of protecting the forests
is not so pressing as in many parts of the island, as there
are no headwaters of streams to be protected and the chief
value of a large area of forest land will be to increase the
rainfall and maintain an equable climate.
Here lava flows are gradually being covered with a forest
growth composed chiefly of ferns and ohia which assist
greatly in the rapid disintegration of the lava and the
formation of a fairly rich soil. Such tracts are naturally
suited to forest growth and as they are not, at present,
capable of producing any more valuable crop, the should be
used as forest reserves. Cattle grazing on such lands does
not yield sufficient returns to justify the destruction of
the young forests.
On all parts of the island, the heaviest rains occur within
the forests on the higher slopes of the mountains. Hence it
is extremely important that the forest growth should be
encouraged on Hualalai and the existing forest
The combined area of the rocky slopes and the lava flows is
considerable and the territorial government should see to it
that these sections are kept under forests as they are
almost worthless for any other purpose. Provided such a
definite policy is adopted, it would be entirely safe to
permit the clearing of all forest land for agriculture
within the district.
A5. Kau. Formerly this was considered the driest
district on the island of Hawaii, but since the plantations
and ranches have commenced to preserve the forests by means
of fencing out the cattle, the rainfall has increased
Great credit is due the gentlemen who have been so
far-sighted and liberal thus preserving a magnificent
stretch of forest. Over 31 miles of protection fence have
been built on the slopes of Mauna Loa back of the Pahala
plantation and ranch, and within five years, since the fence
has been constructed, the young growth, composed for the
most part of ferns and ohia, has come up in such dense
masses that it is almost impassable and the land is rapidly
regaining its marshy character. This very satisfactory
reclamation of a large forest belt which had been severely
thinned out by both wild and tame cattle within a few years
speaks for itself and points out the way both for the
government, corporations and private owners who are all
vitally interested in preserving the water supply.
Within this district, also notably, in the vicinity of the
crater of Kilauea, are large tracts of land covered with
lava and upon which the young forest growth which is
struggling to gain a foothold and make soil should be
absolutely protected. The growth of all species which are
easily self-sown, particularly the pines, should be
encouraged. This is especially true on the mountain slopes
and higher elevations where it is important to conserve the
heavy rainfall which, at present, is very largely lost
through the rapid evaporation on soil which is exposed to
the full force of the sun's rays.
A6. Puna. Puna is called the tropical district of the
island and contains the truly magnificent forests of Olaa
which are composed very largely of tree ferns which are
composed very largely of tree ferns which grow to a height
of from 30 to 40 feet with a mass of smaller ferns as an
undergrowth. In this connection the fact should be
emphasized that a dense of ferns conserves the water more
completely and gives it off more gradually than a more open
forest of native trees. The ferns act as a sponge, absorbing
an enormous amount of moisture and giving it off very
gradually, especially if the ferns are in dense shade from
an overhead or second-storied forest of trees.
Puna has a vast forest area and while large tracts are being
cleared for sugar and homesteads, yet it is probable that
there will be no diminution of the rainfall or water supply
for fluming or irrigating provided the upper slopes of the
forest are protected.
A7. Hilo. This district contains nearly all the
running streams on the island of Hawaii and it is therefore
more important to protect the forests on the headwaters of
these streams than in nearly all other section combined.
Most of these streams come from underground water which
rises to the surface at a comparatively low elevation and
are used extensively for fluming cane along the line of
plantations which extend from Hilo to Hamakua. The loss or
decrease in flow of these streams would be a severe blow to
the plantations as they depend on fluming almost exclusively
for the transportation of their cane to the mell. Above the
plantations, the extensive forest covered slopes of Mauna
Kea produce a very heavy rainfall which seeps through the aa
flows and is carried to the lower levels by the more or less
The lower edge of the forest is protected by the cane lands
but wild and tame cattle, sheep and goats are killing the
forest along the upper slopes and so gradually narrowing the
forest belt. The rains which fall on the higher grass
covered slopes and which is not lost by evaporation runs off
very rapidly thus causing the small streams to overflow
their banks after a very heavy rain without conserving any
of it for the drier season when it is most needed.
Nearly all of this government land has been leased for a
long term of years and the plantations in order to protect
the headwaters of the streams must fence along the upper
forest slopes and drive out or kill the stock which remains
below the fence.
The government should assist the plantations in every
possible way to protect the forests and incorporate in all
future leases a provision that all important forest areas
shall either be fenced by the lessee or all cattle
B. Maui. The forests on the island of Maui, upon the
whole, are in a fairly satisfactory condition although in
certain sections they are disappearing very rapidly. Nearly
all the sugar plantations and the bulk of the arable land
lies between Wailuku and Honomanu and here the forests have
been seriously injured by stock grazing.
The sugar planters and farmers in this locality all depend
upon irrigation, the water being taken from small streams
which for the most part rise on the slopes of Haleakala. For
many years, cattle were allowed an unrestricted range in the
forests along the headwaters of these streams so that in
many sections the forest is either dead of dying.
The almost total destruction of the undergrowth has allowed
the soil to bake and harden thus causing the rainfall to run
off rapidly with the resultant effect of very low water
during the dry season. The Haiku and Spreckelsville ditches
have prevented stock from ranging in the upper forests and
so have formed a protection belt from Haiku to Honomanu.
Along the line of the Haiku ditch the almost total
destruction of the forests by stock is clearly shown; for
whereas the forests on the upper side of the ditch, which
have been protected, are very dense and healthy, those on
the lower side, which have been open to grazing, are either
almost destroyed or in a very unhealthy condition.
The district of Kula is also a striking example and, in
order to save the little remaining forest, the cattle must
be absolutely excluded. It is far easier and a much better
policy to save the existing forests than to certainly
destroy them by grazing and attempt to realize by planting a
forest in some other locality.
Planting is extremely expensive, especially if the trees are
set out very close together as must be done if a dense
forest is to be secured which will act as a sponge and hold
the water supply. Then too, a small amount of planting here
and there does very little good and such expensive work will
seldom be necessary in the islands if a common sense forest
policy is pursued.
The government owns some very important forests areas on
Maui along the headwaters of the streams and the upper
slopes of the mountains which should be segregated and set
aside as forest reserves. It will probably be advisable to
build fences and necessary to determine which lands are
suitable for agriculture and those which should always be
kept under timber.
The forests in the Iao valley are very well protected and
consequently show no signs of deterioration while the
streams are maintained with a fairly even flow. The forests
in the remainder of the district of Lahaina show very
plainly the effect of grazing and must be much more
carefully looked after in order to conserve the all
important water supply.
The whole question on the island of Maui is protecting the
existing forests; it is of the most vital importance to the
plantations that these should be done at once and thus save
the very large expense of artificial planting.
C. Molokai. Cattle, goats and deer have totally
destroyed the forests upon the larger portion of the island
of Molokai so that the western half is practically destitute
of any tree growth. It is possible that the algaroba forests
which have secured such a strong old along the coast near
Kaunakakai may gradually spread over this end of the island.
At present the soil is covered with a thin growth of grass
which is apt to die down during the dry season thus allowing
the top soil to cake and powder.
Molokai is exposed to the full force of very heavy winds
which are rapidly blowing most of this fine soil top soil
off into the ocean. The algaroba will hold this soil,
furnish splendid firewood and the bean pods make a very good
feed for cattle during the dry season.
Planting in belts or strips is recommended on the western
half of the island in order to form windbreaks and thus hold
the shifting soils. The eastern half of the island including
the entire Olokui section is by far the most important for
here all the streams rise.
Cattle and deer, particularly the latter, have destroyed a
large area of the forests but within late years their
numbers have been greatly reduced by hunters who have been
paid to shoot them.
The condition at present time is that the forest has been
pushed back into the deeper and more inaccessible canyons
and onto the highest slopes of the mountain. The effective
watershed in respect to the conservation of the water supply
has thus been greatly reduced and the careful protection of
the remaining forests is an absolute necessity.
A small amount of fencing has already been done and the
results are surprisingly satisfactory although the forests
had been very badly denuded. The remaining fences should be
constructed at once while there is still a small amount of
undergrowth which will assist very materially in the rapid
reclamation of the forests.
D. Oahu. Forest protection on Oahu is far more
important than on any other island of the Hawaiian group on
account of the large interests at stake and the great value
of the water supply. Probably there is a greater daily
consumption of water for irrigation purposes between
Honolulu and Kahuku than on any equal area in the United
States. The sugar plantations alone pump over 314 million
gallons of water daily.
Both the Waianae and Koolau Mountain Ranges were formerly
covered with a heavy forest growth extending down nearly to
the shore line and in the center to the Waialua plains. But
the indiscriminate ranging of cattle has resulted in the
total destruction of all the undergrowth and trees on the
lower slopes so that today the remaining forests are
confined to the upper slopes and the more inaccessible
canyons. Still the cattle continue to rapidly destroy the
forest although in many cases the land and cattle owners are
far more financially concerned in the welfare of the sugar
The water which is being pumped by the plantations to
irrigate their cane is very largely that which falls within
the forest belt on the higher slopes and gradually sinks to
the artesian level. Consequently if the cattle and goats are
allowed to destroy these forests, a considerable amount of
water will be lost through largely increased evaporation on
the exposed soil and the rapid run off.
There is a large amount of natural grazing land such as the
Waialua plains and the lower slopes of the two ranges above
the cane lands so that the necessary protection of the
forest areas does not mean doing away with cattle business.
There is also a large amount of fine agricultural land on
the Waialua plains but these will be absolutely worthless
unless the water supply is protected.
The reforestation of Tantalus by the Department of
Agriculture and Forestry is an unusually fine piece of work
very successfully carried out but it clearly demonstrates
how difficult and expensive the reclamation of such land
becomes when all the forest growth has been destroyed. It
emphasizes the fact of how much easier it is to fence and
protect the forests in time while a few trees remain to seed
up the surrounding soil than it is to delay until artificial
reforestation is necessary.
If the lower slopes of the forests on the Waianae and Koolau
ranges are fenced off as soon as possible, the scattering
trees will gradually reforest the slopes, the young koa,
which at present is being eaten off and tramped by cattle,
will come up and a small amount of planting of those areas
which are absolutely denuded will be necessary. The fencing
should have been done long ago and at present the
reclamation of the forests will be very slow on account of
the few seeds which remain and the mass of Hilo grass which
has covered the soil and makes reproduction very difficult
if not impossible.
So much of the government land on this island has been
leased for a long term of years that the effective
protection of the remaining forests depend upon the planters
and other lessees will be benefitted. However, it is hoped
that the government can assist in building the fences and
they will appoint a ranger to patrol the forest lands not
under lease and see to it that all cattle are excluded.
In future the forest areas on this island should never be
leased for grazing purposes and the lessees of cane and
agricultural lands should be obliged by the terms of their
lease, to build stock fences and keep them in repair.
I recommend that a Forest Force be organized. In order to
thoroughly protect the forest areas and carry out the forest
policy of the government, the organization of a field force
is extremely important. The following forest force which is
similar to those in charge of the forest reserves in the
United States is recommended, viz: A forest inspector who
shall be a practical forester and have charge of all
government forest land and direct the work of the forest
rangers. Four forest rangers who shall have had some
practical training in forestry, understand lumbering and
tree planting, with rangers as follows: One on the island of
Oahu; one on the island of Hawaii; one on the island of
Kauai; one for the islands of Maui and Molokai.
Their duties should consist in patrolling all government
forest land within their ranges and enforcing the terms of
the lease, supervising the construction of all government
fences, acting as fire wardens and taking charge of all the
If thoroughly competent men are appointed, such a force
should prove wonderfully efficient in protecting and
building up the forest reserves.