MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state land department is accepting proposals to move forward with a carbon credit system that will fund forest restoration on the Big Island.
Individuals or companies would have the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by buying credits directly from the state.
Income generated would help replant native trees like Koa and Mamane in the 4,700 acre Pu'u Mali Restoration Area within the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve.
"We are sequestering carbon that has been emitted at other places," said Philipp Lahaela Walter, DLNR state resources and survey forester. "Let's say that an airline wants to offset their carbon emission. For now, they cannot fly without fossil fuel. So they have to look at ways like all the emission that they put into the atmosphere, how can they mitigate that?"
The critically-endangered Hawaiian bird Palila depend on the forest that was largely destroyed by animal grazing.
The DLNR says the forest carbon project is a win-win for the public and the environment.
"This is a huge opportunity not only for the state, but this is a big opportunity for big private land owners that want to move from these non-native grasslands towards forest," said Walter.
Without such a program, reforestation could cost millions.
"If we didn't have this, inevitably taxpayers might have to foot the bill to do what needs to happen to ensure we have viable watersheds and be able to do something about climate change in Hawaii," said Rep. Chris Lee, state house energy chair.