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In the wake of a devastating wildfire, Parker Ranch to focus new attention (and funds) to sustainability

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:23 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2021 at 12:12 AM HST
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(HONOLULU) - In August, a wildfire on Hawaii Island scorched 44,000 acres.

As the flames spread, teams of Parker Ranch cowboys and crews rounded up 2,500 head of cattle and moved them hours away from the danger zone.

“It was kind of a mad rush in some pretty hazy conditions to find out where this fire was headed in sustained 40 mph winds. Visibility was very low,” said Jacob Tavares, Parker Ranch manager of Livestock Business Operations.

“We were in the helicopter one to two times per day to try to understand where herds where, where they had moved to get out of the way,” he added.

Some 75% of the area that was burned is on Parker Ranch land in Kamuela. The ranch says it suffered $3 million to $4 million in losses, including to water infrastructure, fencing and 60 cows.

“The pain that was felt ... by the whole community,” said Dutch Kuyper, president and CEO of Parker Ranch.

More than three months later, the grass is growing back and the ranch rebuilt its waterlines. But with dry conditions, ranch leaders know more severe weather is coming.

“We have adopted the position that climate change is real,” said Kuyper.

Besides beef, Parker Ranch plans to invest about $15 million in sustainability efforts, including solar energy.

“Weaning us off fossil fuels is a huge priority and we are happy to be part of that change,” said Kuyper.

Parker Ranch also has a new partnership with Kamuela Hardwoods to form a new joint venture company, Paniolo Hardwoods.

It will plant native trees and create specialty hardwoods and salvaged timber prioritized for local business, artisans and instrument makers.

“There’s a lot of synergy between beef production, land stewardship and the growth of trees especially a native tree base here on Mauna Kea,” said Tavares.

About 10% of the 130,000 acre ranch is forested today and Parker Ranch wants to triple that in a decade.

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