Hawaii Program takes home lessons from Ellsworth Creek

By Dave Rolph, Director of Forest Conservation and Management

Nature Conservancy staff from Hawaii came to Washington in August to venture into our rainforest to learn more about logging and guitars.

Did you know that the wood found on many of the highest quality guitars made in North America is milled right here in Washington in the Skagit Valley? That’s right, guitars made by Taylor, Gibson, Martin, Collings and many others begin their evolution from log to exquisite musical instruments at Pacific Tonewoods in Concrete.

Steve McMinn, owner and founder of Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Photo by Dave Rolph/TNC

Did you also know that one of the most beautiful and most expensive woods used in these guitars comes from Hawaii? Koa is a native tree, endemic to Hawaii and one of the major components of the Hawaiian rainforest, particularly on the Big Island. Guitar makers are searching for a sustainable supply of koa wood, and The Nature Conservancy may be a match if it can help support their conservation priority to restore native rainforests.

Taylor guitar bodies. Photo by Marcin Wichary via Flickr used under CC by 2.0

Our team was joined by Ulalia Woodside (Hawaii state director), Jody Kaulukukui (director of land protection), Mel Johansen (Big Island field coordinator), Shalan Crysdale (Hawaii island program director) and a few folks from Taylor Guitars to tour both Ellsworth Creek and Pacific Tonewoods. Initiating a program to harvest koa within Nature Conservancy preserves on the Big Island, even from downed logs along the roadside, will be a very difficult decision for The Nature Conservancy to make. While it could provide significant income to help kick start a more extensive forest-restoration program, they know there are many tough scientific, cultural, economic and operational issues to carefully evaluate.

Members of the Washington and Hawaii teams amid old growth at Ellsworth Creek. Photo © Hannah Letinich/TNC

Through 15 years of management at Ellsworth Creek in Southwest Washington, we have had to tackle many similar questions. When we first began actively logging to accelerate forest recovery around 2007, it was a new frontier for us. To help get started, we developed a scientifically based adaptive-management experiment to incorporate ecological, financial and social lessons directly into the evolution of the program. We also initiated a learning network with other managers across the Pacific Northwest. And we worked with our finance team to figure out how to run a logging operation within a non-profit conservation organizations financial system.

Hopefully, we can help the Hawaii program get a jump start and learn from some of the struggles we faced and lessons that we’ve learned along the way.

Learn More About Our Work at Ellsworth Creek