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Monday, March 20, 2000

Parker Ranch
leases land to
eucalyptus grower

Opponents urge planting of
native trees, saying eucalyptus
harms the land

By Rod Thompson


WAIMEA, Hawaii -- Parker Ranch has entered the forestry business, leasing 10,000 acres above the Big Island's Hamakua Coast to Prudential Timber Investments, says ranch vice president David Ramos.

PruTimber already grows 15,000 acres of eucalyptus in Hamakua and 5,000 acres in Kau, and eucalyptus is the likely tree for the Parker land, although the lease doesn't require that.

The community group Friends of Hamakua, which successfully opposed eucalyptus on state and county land in the area in 1997, is protesting the use of eucalyptus on Parker Ranch land. Friends of Hamakua secretary-treasurer Linda Lyerly said the land should be reforested with native trees.

The land is in Paauhau, at an elevation of 1,500 to 5,000 feet, Ramos said. The 15-year lease may be extended to 25 years.

The ranch's diversification into timber follows six years of study and comes as the ranch suffers from "a period of great drought," he said.

Since 1992, the ranch has been owned by the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust, which benefits North Hawaii Community Hospital, Parker School, Hawaii Preparatory Academy and Hawaii Community Foundation.

Lyerly said concern over eucalyptus began in 1997 when chemical sprays and fire were used to clear cane from former sugar lands.

All the Parker land is above former sugar lands, and Ramos said Parker plants native koa and mamane trees elsewhere.

Ramos said 19th-century ranch manager A.W. Carter planted eucalyptus 100 years ago. Mike Robinson of the Hawaii Forestry and Communities Initiative said Civilian Conservation Corps workers planted more in the 1930s. A recent survey of the area found 2,319 acres of it on state land, he said.

In the past, eucalyptus opponents said it harms the land.

Tommy Crabb, a retired C. Brewer manager who planted and studied eucalyptus for 15 years on Brewer land just north of Hilo, said there is no evidence of that.

Ramos said the trees protect the soil while growing. They may be harvested every six years, compared to every two years for former sugar crops, and less frequent harvests mean less truck traffic than sugar generated, he said.

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