Environmental Risk Factors
Of all the risks to a forest resource, fire is the most universally feared. Every year, California experiences forest fires during its dry season. These fires are often started by lightning. The meteorological conditions in Hawaii make lightning a very rare occurrence.
The continuously wet conditions along the windward (northeast) coast of the Big Island make it a low-risk area for forest fires. To get an idea of the amount of rainfall, you can refer to the map below. Beyond reducing the fire risk, these lush conditions also allow us to avoid the major expense of irrigation. Our growing areas receive 60 inches of rain or more per year. Rainfall is so consistent that irrigation is unnecessary, allowing us to keep costs down and not waste another valuable resource.
The Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in nature and the potential for lava flows must be considered. The Islands are oceanic shield volcanoes and, as a result, produce very fluid lava that is highly predictable. It does not have the characteristics associated with volcanoes like Mount St. Helens. All farm sites used for the tree owner program will be in Lava Hazard Zone 8, as classified by the United States Geological Survey, or in areas where there are no identifiable flows in recorded history. Zone 8 is one of the lowest risk areas, with no area being affected since 1800 and less than 1% affected in the last 10,000 years.
The only risk that earthquakes pose to tree farms is if they result in landslides along steep slopes. The generally low intensity of Hawaii’s earthquakes makes this a very small risk. Most quakes are not even noticed by the residents and only show up on sensitive recording equipment. This is even less of an issue with tree farms since steep slopes are not suitable for planting trees. The following map shows the locations and intensities of quakes on the Big Island. Most of them are clustered in areas of current volcanic activity in the southern part of the Big Island. The lava risk and the earthquake risk tend to cluster together.
Hurricane and storm force winds can topple trees in areas that they impact. Hawaii has had the good fortune of being in slightly cooler water, reducing the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. As depicted in the map below, no hurricanes have made landfall on the Big Island in the last 60 years. The map from the University of Hawaii Meteorology Department shows the tracks and intensities of recent hurricanes in the Central Pacific. Although this is no guarantee of future weather patterns, Hawaii has not been subjected to the storm frequencies or intensities experienced by the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.
One can never quantify all the risks of an enterprise, but all care has been taken to minimize exposure to environmental, geological, and meteorological risk. The market force risks are covered in the Projections section. Although changes in government policy are difficult to predict, public opinion and the current administration recognize the need for sustainable environmental practices. This trend will favor enterprises that take pressure off precious and endangered resources.
The risk of diseases and insects are constantly monitored by our forestry professionals. Hawaii’s geographic isolation reduces the threat of many pests that are common in other parts of the world. By continually monitoring the tree farm, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods works to minimize any pest threats through early detection and treatment.
This by no means constitutes a complete analysis of all possible risks. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods encourages any concerned potential tree owner to consult with suitable professionals of their own selection.