- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) - A group of volunteers is helping to restore the Hikimoe Ridge, three years after the forest was damaged in a fire that burned several thousand acres on Kauai.

About 30 volunteers planted seedlings on Wednesday across two acres of the Hikimoe Ridge. Officials say they plan to plant 20,000 seedlings along the entire area that was destroyed in the 2012 blaze, The Garden Island reported (https://bit.ly/1T27cbP).

“It’s great to have the chance to come back and heal the land,” said Michelle Clark, a biologist with US Fish and Wildlife Service. “Who can say no to a chance to come out to Kokee to plant trees.”

Hikimoe Ridge, in the Kokee Area Forest Reserves, was one of three ridges charred in the fire that spread across the Na Pali-Kona, Puuka Pele Forest Reserves and southern Poki. Almost 3,000 acres of eucalyptus trees were burned to the ground.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has been behind efforts to rebuild the forest, is replacing the eucalyptus trees with koa trees, which are native to Hawaii. Eucalyptus trees are from Australia.

“We want to support the community, beauty and recreation, but we also want to stabilize the soil and create a habitat for native plants and animals,” said Sheri Mann, state forestry program manager for the DNLR Division of Forestry & Wildlife.

Officials also plan to use the burned remnants of trees as a source for renewable energy on the island.

Planting koa trees in the Kokee Forest has also brought some challenges for state officials, who are concerned the seedlings won’t grow as easily in the island’s dry conditions.

But Suzanne Case, DLNR, remains hopeful that the recovery and restoration efforts will have a positive impact on the forest land.

“We hope in not too many years the scars left by this series of wildfires will no longer be evident, thanks to the replanting efforts and everything that led up to it,” said Case.

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Information from: The Garden Island, https://thegardenisland.com/

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