Tropical Trees Create New Opportunities
Hawaii invokes images of clear blue ocean water, luaus, surfers, waterfalls, volcanoes and beautiful beaches. Because of the state’s diverse natural and geologic features, there are ecosystems and species not found on the mainland, including a plethora of tropical trees.
With all that Hawaii has to offer, Sheri Mann finds many ways to spend her time, including scuba diving, golfing, and her role as the state coordinator for Hawaii’s Big Tree Program, a position she has held for approximately eight years. “It has been gratifying to be a voice of the U.S. Pacific Islands and to educate others about these wonderful places,” says Mann.
Due to the different ecology in Hawaii, many of the state’s biggest trees are species that can only be found there. The National Register of Big Trees only recognizes trees that are native and naturalized in the continental U.S. and Alaska, which means many of Hawaii’s most treasured species aren’t eligible for national championships. But, with a resurgence of Hawaii’s Big Tree Program and a fresh perspective from American Forests about the list of eligible species, we expect the Aloha State and its big trees to appear in the 2012 National Register of Big Trees, which will be coming this spring. (Note: Nominations for the 2012 list are due by March 1, 2012). Sheri has her fingers crossed for the Acacia koa, a common tree on the Hawaiian Islands, to grace the register for the first time.
Over the last decade, Hawaii’s Big Tree Program has undergone many changes, as it continues to redefine its mission and goals. In the past, Hawaii has had national champion trees, but those champions were invasive species to the islands, so the program made the decision to dethrone them. Now, the program is focused on recognizing and promoting trees that are native to Hawaii.
Sheri says, “There has been great public support for the renaissance of the program.”Hawaii’s Big Tree Program hopes to serve as an educational tool and remind people of the native and culturally important trees they don’t see as much anymore. One of the program’s goals is to get these trees into local nurseries to reduce the annual rate of plant extinctions.
Beyond nominating big trees, Sheri encourages people to nominate culturally significant trees to the state’s Exceptional Tree Program, which is run through The Outdoor Circle. Through this program, the state provides landowners with lower property taxes if they care for and protect their nominated tree. Sheri is hoping to adapt this economic incentive to the state’s Big Tree Program.
They are also currently consulting with New Zealand, which has similar programs that highlight culturally significant or “story trees.” In the long term, Sheri hopes to develop an app for smart phones where anyone can learn about any big, exceptional or story tree. In the short term, though, as Sheri and her team rebuild Hawaii’s Big Tree Program, they are looking to fellow islanders to nominate big trees for the national competition.
For more information on Hawaii’s Big Tree Program or to nominate a tree, please contact Sheri Mann.