Interested buyers flock
to Big Isle eucalyptus

KAILUA-KONA >> A 20,000-acre eucalyptus forest on the Big Island planted seven years ago is nearly ready to be harvested, the site owner said.

Many of the trees on the Hamakua Coast are old enough to be harvested, and talks are progressing with a number of interested buyers, said Hank Page, a vice president at PruTimber.

"We have a lot of interested parties who are much more serious, possibly because of world wood chip market conditions and because the trees are at a point where we can do more than just talk about them," he said.

The oldest stands might be cut down and processed into chips for paper, or the forests might be thinned so the remaining trees can grow to a size where they can be used for veneer, plywood or lumber, Page said.

Tradewinds Forestry Products, of Portland, Ore., has expressed interest in becoming the processor.

"We are very confident in the viability of this project," Tradewinds official Don Bryan said. "We haven't gone away and we're anxious to get going."

Tradewinds already has a contract with the state to harvest more than 8,000 acres of hardwoods from the Waiakea Forest Reserve. The deal was intended to keep a mill busy while waiting for the eucalyptus stands to mature.

Stephen Smith, president of the Hawaii Forest Industry Association, said demand is up for wood chips and timber.

However, some nearby residents are concerned with the harvesting.

"How often will they harvest? Will it be sequential or all at one time? How are they going to transport the trees? What kind of jobs are they going to offer?" Honokaa resident Tim Mann said.

Mann said he's not necessarily against a timber industry in the area, if it's done right.

"A good tree plantation is a good neighbor to have," he said. "When they're good they're very good; when they're bad they're horrid."


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