- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii is seeking an operator for its planned initiative selling carbon offset credits for reforestation and recovery of 7.3 square miles (19 square kilometers) of island pasture land.

The request for a proposal seeks a partner in what is described as a first-of-its-kind initiative for Hawaii.

The Puu Mali Forest Carbon Project on the north slope of Mauna Kea calls for planting native trees such as koa and mamane, restoring watershed lands and enhancing the natural habitat of the endangered palila bird, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://bit.ly/2uoRXku ) reported Tuesday.

The plan is to pay for the project through the sale of carbon offset credits, with one such credit typically certifying the storage of one metric ton of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in plants and other organic material.

Carbon credits are used to offset carbon emissions, also known as greenhouse gas emissions, from motorized travel, commercial activities and other carbon-emitting activities.

By making the Puu Mali Restoration Area available for a forest carbon offset project, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is creating opportunities to generate carbon credits locally, officials said.

Ranging from 5,200 feet to 7,800 feet (1,585 meters to 2,377 meters) in elevation, the Puu Mali Restoration Area used to be prime koa forest habitat before it was converted into pastureland for cattle. But then the area was fenced and all domestic and feral hoofed animals were removed.

The Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife began to restore the forest in 2004, while aiming to recharge the watershed and provide habitat for the native palila. The land last year was added to the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve.

“We want to have the reforestation certified by a certified carbon standard,” said Philipp LaHaela Walter, state resource and survey forester. “That’s basically a third party that certifies that you are storing a certain amount of carbon by reforesting the area.”

As part of the request for a proposal, applicants are asked to submit reforestation plans and economic development plans showing how carbon credits will be sold and marketed.

Proposals are due Aug. 31. A site visit to the Puu Mali region was held last week for potential applicants.

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