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Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs December 6, 2023

Koa art by Joan Yoshioka

KOA, MEANING BRAVE, BOLD, FEARLESS, is Plant of the Month for the last Lāʻau Letters of 2023, written by Jody Rosam with illustration by Joan Yoshioka. Here is La'u Letters, Native Plants of Ka'u:
    I wanted to share a familiar friend, Koa (meaning brave, bold, fearless, courage, and warrior) to bring you strength in the upcoming year. E ola Koa!  Description:  Koa is another one of our endemic Fabulous Fabaceae, and is the second most common tree species in Hawaiʻi (second to ʻōhiʻa). In rich volcanic ash soils, koa can grow to impressive heights of 100 feet or more. In fact, a koa tree in Kapuʻa Ahupuaʻa was measured at 115 feet tall with a crown spread of 93 feet!
    Did you know that mature koa trees do not have true leaves? When they are young, koa produces compound leaves composed of many small leaflets, but as they mature, they form the flat sickle-shaped leaf-like structures we are all familiar with seeing. Those are actually phyllodes, which are a modified petiole (the stalk that attaches the leaf blade to the stem). This is a unique adaptation, because petioles are able to twist the leaves in order to face the sun. In the case of koa, the vertically-flattened arrangement of the phyllodes optimizes their exposure to sunlight (and photosynthesis) throughout the canopy.
    The bark of koa is typically light gray, and is sometimes covered on one side by a bright orange lichen. The white flowers form in small, round heads and give way to seed pods containing many dark brown hard seeds. If you look closely at seeds in a pod, you can even notice the piko where it is attached to the pod. Have you ever walked through a koa forest and smelled a garlicky smell? That is the smell of the busy rhizobia or soil bacteria that live in root nodules fixing nitrogen! These rhizobia have the power to convert atmospheric nitrogen (N2), which is difficult for plants to uptake, into a usable form of ammonia (NH3). Cool symbiotic relationship, right?
    Uses: Commercially, koa is one of the most valued (and most expensive) woods in the world, which is why a sustainable harvesting method is crucial to perpetuating koa’s survival. Historically, one of the most well-known uses for koa was in canoe making. However, the process of selecting and harvesting the koa 

Young koa trees. Photo from state Department of Land & Natural Resources

tree for this purpose was intricate and ceremonial (please read about it). I kū mau mau! In addition to canoes, the fine red wood was once used for hale (houses), hoe (paddles), papa heʻe nalu (surfboards), and ʻumeke lāʻau (calabashes) to name a few, and is now used in woodworking to make exquisite furniture and ʻukulele. The bark can be used to make a red dye for kapa and the leaves can be strung into lei.
    Koa’s medicinal uses are plenty, including reducing fever, pūhō (abscesses), ʻeha māui (bruises), and haki (bone breaks). Habitat: Generally speaking, koa can be found on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except Kahoʻolawe and Niʻihau. It is able to grow at elevations between 150 - 7,000 feet in dry and mesic environments, though the greatest concentrations of koa are between 3,000 - 6,000 feet. In Kaʻū, you can find koa growing in every ahupuaʻa mauka of about 1,000 feet elevation.
    Growing and Purchasing: Koa keiki are often available at local plant sales, however, it should be noted that koa does vary greatly from one location to another. For this reason, as well as when you purchase any native species, please try and be aware of the source of your plant and keep them planted on your property and do not plant purchased trees out into the wild, as the genetic variation of our wild plant populations is critical to their survival. Koa are happiest when planted in full sun, and once they are established, they can handle periods of drought and high winds. Plant them 30-40 feet apart to accommodate their future crown spans in an area with plenty of sunshine. Do your best to keep the base of the tree weed-free, as koa does not like being weed whipped or bumped with a mower, and keep pruning to a minimum. Consider companion planting with a friend like ʻaʻaliʻi, māmaki, or ʻiliahi. Kūlia! 

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Mauna Loa and Hilina Pali Roads are open. NPS photo
MAUNA LOA AND HILINA PALI ROADS HAVE REOPENED for vehicles, for access to their overlooks in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. "Currently, there is no imminent wildfire threat in the area," says the Park posting. "While we are happy that the road is again open, it is essential to remain informed. Dry conditions and invasive plant species have heightened the risk of wildfires in Hawai'i. Increased fire events and the presence of flammable grasses pose a real threat to the cherished ecosystems in Hawai'i. Let's all stay vigilant and #RecreateResponsibly to protect our natural treasures."  
    For more information visit the park website: https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/nature/drought-impact.htm.

A 4.4 M EARTHQUAKE HIT SUMMIT AREA OF KĪLAUEA VOLCANO at about 5:19 p.m. Wednesday. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center no tsunami threat.

FLAGS WILL BE FLOWN HALF-STAFF ON THURSDAY to commemorate Dec. 7, which marks the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II. At the direction of the President of the United States, Gov. Josh Green, M.D., ordered that the United States flag and the Hawaiʻi state flag be flown at half-staff at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol and upon all state offices and agencies, as well as the Hawaiʻi National Guard in the State of Hawaiʻi from sunrise until sunset. 
    Green said, "This is a day for all of the world, but especially Hawaiʻi, to solemnly honor the sacrifices of so many service members and civilians who lost their lives during the December 7, 1941 attack that changed the course of world history. We are grateful for the peace that has since reigned between the U.S. and Japan, and for the especially close ties forged between Japan and Hawaiʻi."

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GOV. JOSH GREEN LISTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS ON TUESDAY after serving a year in office. In addition to those accomplishments by Green and his administration, reported in Tuesday's Kaʻū News Briefs, he reported the following:
    Hawai'i Life Flight: The Dec. 15, 2022 fatal crash of a Hawai'i Life Flight air ambulance – the state's sole interisland medical transport company -- exposed the need to bolster the neighbor islands' medical
airlift capacity. Green issued an Emergency Proclamation allowing the state to supplement medical airlift capacity with aircraft and flight crews from other states and with commercial carriers serving rural communities. In May, OptimuM Air of Las Vegas began operations as the state's second air ambulance carrier.
    Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and
Hawai'i Visitors & Conventions Bureau
drew involvement by Green to resolve the heated tourism contract disputes. He said he helped to bring a working peace between the two, "whose divisions over the previous year threatened Hawai'i's pressing need for a cohesive tourism marketing plan."
Fifty million dollars in state stalled grants-in aid. Green worked with the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Budget & Finance in March to release the
money that "supported nearly 180 nonprofit organizations navigating a new, somewhat challenging environment for non-profits following the COVID-19 pandemic."
    Correcting $1 billion overage in state budget. "New stark projections from the Council on Revenues between March and May 2023 showed declining revenue. Green's measured approach balanced fiscal 
accountability with Hawai'i's pressing needs," said a statement from his office. "Going forward, Governor Green will need to reevaluate Hawai'i's spending needs in light of the Maui Wildfire Disaster."
    Green led a Japan Diplomatic Mission in early November to engage with senior Japanese political leaders and tourism industry leaders to welcome Japanese visitors back to Maui—and other parts of Hawai'i. He expressed his intention to make travel easier through pre-custom checks.
    Appointing female judges is listed among Green's Accomplishments. The statement says, "Seeking to achieve gender equity among judges in the state Judiciary, Governor Green has appointed Lisa Ginoza to the State Supreme Court; Judge Kimberly Guidry to the Intermediate Court of Appeals and Judge Michelle Drewyer to the Second Circuit Court on Maui, creating a nearly even balance."
First female judge in Hawai'i, Emma Kaili Metcalf
 Beckley Nakuina, was appointed in 1892. Green 
created nearly a balance of men and women 
judges in his first year. Image from Wikipedia
     Protected Women'sReproductive Rights is another accomplishment listed. Among the bills Green first signed into law was SB1, which "expands access to reproductive health care services in numerous ways; clarifies that the state will not deny or interfere with a pregnant person's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and protects Hawai'i health care providers from punitive legal action from within or outside of the state relating to the provision of legally provided reproductive health care services. Additional protections, prohibitions and requirements are included."
    The statement says that "In response to efforts by extreme judges on the continent to revoke the approval of mifepristone for use in abortion medication in early April 2023, Governor Green directed Comptroller Keith Regan and Tax Director Gary Suganuma to secure a year's supply of the drug.
    Green signed the Obrero reform bill, which "addressed a potentially troubling problem in the state's criminal justice system. The ruling could have forced prosecutors to recharge hundreds of violent offenders and set them free as a grand jury considers their cases." Bill 36, signed by Green in March, clarified that a person could be tried and sentenced for serious felonies either through the complaint and preliminary hearing process, indictment by grand jury, or by written information. The new law also barrs prosecutors from making multiple attempts to charge a person with the same felony by presenting the same evidence to a grand jury or judge, or both.