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20th Century Commercial Forest Products Activities Hawai’i Island

Hawai’i Island Early Commercial Industry 1908-1917 and 1950-on

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Image copyright Forestry Management Consultants Hawai’i 1999


Late 1700s
Timber Resources Meet Needs of Growing Industries

With the opening of Hawai‘i to the outside world after the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778, Hawaii’s timber resources supplied the needs, particularly for fuel wood, of the many trading and whaling vessels that plied the Pacific maritime routes in the late 1700s and the 1800s.

In addition, as many as six to seven hundred cords a year (1444 m3 – 1685 m3/282,000 fbm – 329000 fbm) of fuel wood were used at the mills of the growing sugar industry in Hawai‘i. This practice lasted approximately 50 years until the mid 1880s when the majority of plantations had converted to coal or new technologies that used residue from sugar cane–-called bagasse–for fuel.


Image–Captain Cook’s Moment of Discovery Kaua’i January 19, 1778. Courtesy, Artist, Raymond A. Massey, Ship Store Galleries, Kapaa, Kaua’i.



Commercial Forestry Activities in Hawai’i

Commercial forestry activities have been conducted in Hawai‘i since the arrival of early immigrants from Polynesia and other parts of the Pacific. These early settlers brought tree species from their homelands that were planted and used, along with indigenous trees, for the various activities of the society at that time.

Uses included, but were not limited to, home construction, religion, recreation, warfare, agriculture and fishing. It has been reported that more than 200 years ago large areas of land cover – conservatively estimated to be near 25 percent of the land area – had already been altered due to long term human impact.

Commercial forestry activities have played a small, generally unrecognized, but important and interesting role in the economic development of Hawai’i.

Today, these commercial forestry activities are positioned to play a larger role in the diversification of Hawaii’s economy as they mature in the 21st century.