Hawaii’s award-winning Citizen Forester Program trains and certifies community volunteers (like you!) to become forestry leaders by collecting data about the trees in their communities.
Volunteer citizens work in their community to map urban trees and add to the Hawai’i tree database. Volunteers collect location data, tree measurements, and health condition of trees in the public right of way.
Citizen Foresters also raise awareness on the importance of caring for trees where we live.
About Hawaii’s trees
In 1975, the Hawaiʻi Legislature passed the Exceptional Tree Act (Act 105) to protect designated trees — both public and private — from improper trimming and unnecessary removal. The law also encourages private property owners to properly maintain designated trees by offering a tax credit to offset the costs associated with maintaining Exceptional Trees.
Advocacy and public education of Hawaiian trees have been fostered by community groups including the Mokihana Club of Kaua‘i and The Outdoor Circle. Today, The Outdoor Circle is documenting this effort through the “Exceptional Tree Initiative.”
Where are Hawai`i’s Exceptional Trees? An exceptional tree is “a tree, stand, or grove of trees with historic or cultural value, or that by reason of age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality, or endemic status is designated by a county arborist advisory committee as worthy of preservation”. There are hundreds of exceptional trees throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Why is it important to map Hawaii’s trees?
A reliable inventory can assist efforts to maintain and replace trees, as well as plan for disasters in the urban forest. It can also be used to assess areas where trees are needed the most so we can increase our green infrastructure. The tree inventory also aids in city planning, environmental impact, and public health assessments. With an accurate inventory we are able to save time and taxpayers dollars when managing our urban forests.
There was no formal inventory of trees in Hawai‘i. An urban tree inventory was identified as one of the top strategies in Hawaii’s Forest Action Plan. The inventory is stored on the Tree Plotter™ platform, which calculates the estimated eco-benefits for the recorded trees. The program was piloted in 2016 in the windward town of Kailua on O’ahu. It has now expanded to many other communities across Hawai’i.
The tree inventory data is freely available to the public for non-commercial uses upon request, using the Citizen Forester Tree Inventory Data Request (google.com)
About the Citizen Forester Program
This is a good volunteer opportunity if you want to make a difference in your community, educate others about the important role of trees play in their neighborhood, and meet other like-minded tree lovers.
Benefits of Trees
Trees in our communities provide more benefits than most people ever consider. Here are just a few:
- Trees Save Electricity by reducing the ambient temperature
- Trees improve air quality of life by reducing atmospheric CO2
- Tree provide habitat for wildlife
- Trees reduce stormwater runoff and improve watersheds
- Trees create communities that are happier, healthier, and more productive
You can also gain forestry skills in species identification, tree health, and site conditions. You will also get experience with forestry agencies at the city and state level, plus learn to use the Tree Inventory Database and receive Citizen Science Certification.
The Citizen forester Program has a flexible time commitment, so it can work with most people’s schedules.
Sign up to be a Citizen Forester
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer Citizen Forester, you must sign up for an upcoming training series and pay a one-time $20 tax-deductible registration fee. The money goes towards cost of materials for the program. Please reach out to them if cost is an issue.
To get started, fill out the sign-up form for the Citizen Forester Program. More info: Forestry Programs | Citizen Forester Program (hawaii.gov).
Note: The program is currently accepting volunteers on Oahu. However, you can enroll in the program at any time and you will be added to the top of the list for the next series.
Love trees, but don’t have time to volunteer? Stay Informed with the free Smart Trees Pacific eNewsletter:
- Subscribe on their website: Smart Trees Pacific | Friends of Hawaii’s Urban Forest (smarttreespacific.org)