Made in the shade
The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI) is a nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding Hawai‘i’s natural rainforest environments and to restoring the diversity and integrity of the native ecosystem. HLRI is an organization run by people with lifetimes of experience in all of the areas necessary to the success of this project. It is a new way of sustainable reforestation that is found nowhere else on Earth.
A single wood carving can take Scott Hare hundreds of hours to produce—a labor of love to be sure. Hare begins each piece with a chainsaw and, by the time he nears the end of the process, is fine-tuning the details using dental instruments.
Hare depicts an intricate scene on the outside of a stunning milo calabash. Perched among the twisted branches and detailed blossoms of a koa tree, a group of ‘i‘iwi (the Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, Drepanis coccinea) birds has gathered. Their inquisitive stares focus on the last remaining mamo (the Black Hawaiian honeycreeper, Drepanis pacifica) in existence. “They are asking, ‘Are we next?’” explains Hare. “The mamo is now extinct, and the ‘i‘iwi may follow if we are not careful.”
The piece, entitled “Are We Next,” is just one of the masterpieces Hare has completed during his 30 years as a professional artist. His work has earned numerous awards and is featured in private collections throughout the world, including that of a U.S. president and a Japanese emperor. Many of his pieces, carved from milo, koa or other native trees, are designed to make powerful statements on the plight of Hawai‘i’s endemic flora and fauna. They bear telling names like “The Last Kiss. … Extinction,” and “The Last Caw:” a calabash that features the ʻalalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) or Hawaiian crow.
After living in the islands for thousands of years, the Hawaiian crow vanished from the wild in 2002. Through the efforts of conservationists, a captive breeding program was undertaken that resulted in the first of several Hawaiian crow pairs being reintroduced into the wild last year. Hare says work like this is critical to the health of our forests, and he is among several well-known Hawaiʻi artists partnering with the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI) to support the planting of rare endemic trees and understory species.
“I am a ‘woodholic.’ I love wood,” says Hare, who uses salvaged native trees from development areas. “It is usually a shock when people see the beauty in something that was destined as bulldozer fodder. The way to get people to have a respect for it is to educate and demonstrate the value living trees have, and that they can live on in finished products after they have died.” Hare’s home studio is nestled in a lushly landscaped, 6-acre property on Hawaiʻi Island, where he has lived since 1979. “Our Earth is in trouble,” says Hare. “I’m an artist, so this is the way I put these issues in front of as many people as possible so they ask questions like, ‘What kind of bird is that?’ or ‘Where is that flower found?’ These pieces start an important conversation.”
Each tree in the HLRI Legacy Forest is individually tracked with proprietary Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging technology which the sponsors of these “Legacy Trees” can use to visit their tree online via applications like Google Earth. Together, HLRI and its partners like Hare have helped to plant more than 350,000 endemic Hawaiian trees in the world’s first Legacy Forest.
“This landmark effort has involved hundreds of local businesses and tens of thousands of individuals. Together they have taken 1,000 acres of denuded Hawaiian pastureland and put back a forest. This land was dead, and now it is a fully functioning native ecosystem with rare and endangered plants and animals,” says Jeff Dunster, executive director of HLRI. “We have even seen the return of the ʻio (Buteo solitarius, Hawaiian hawk), pueo (Asio flammeus sandwichensis, Hawaiian owl) and nēnē (Branta sandvicensis, Hawaiian goose)—all currently on the endangered species list.”
In addition, HLRI is working with traditional featherwork artist Rick San Nicolas, painter and historian Brook Kapukuniahi Parker and wood artisan Alan Wilkinson, to promote the restoration of native habitats through the recreation of the ʻAha‘ula. This collection is an historic series of multi-faceted displays that depicts some of Hawaiʻi’s most important leaders and the wonderfully vivid feather cloaks (ʻahuʻula) and helmets (mahiole) they wore. The displays are being installed over the next decade around the state. The most recent was unveiled at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, which has committed to planting 1 million Legacy Trees. (LegacyTrees.org/ahaula) Visit LegacyForestGifts.com to learn more about receiving one of Hare’s works of art as a gift for making a tax-deductible sponsorship of Legacy Trees. This also includes a private Legacy Tree planting tour through Hawaiian Legacy Tours (www.HawaiianLegacyTours.com).
With the support of thousands of individual tree sponsors and organizations, HLRI is now planning to grow its Legacy Tree program statewide, helping raise funds for hundreds of charities and nonprofits in the process. Learn more about the Hawaiian Legacy Forest and how you can help at LegacyTrees.org.