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Thursday, May 23, 2019
Debunk: Sierra Club Fluff Piece on Hawaii Carbon Credit Scheme
By Andrew Walden @ 5:44 PM :: 7604 Views :: Hawaii County , Environment, Ethics, Land Use

by Andrew Walden

Apparently nobody at the Sierra Club's national magazine knows what a penny stock tout is.

Here are a few passages from “Reviving Hawaii’s Native Forests” published May 22, 2019, in 'Sierra', the national Sierra Club magazine.  To derive veracity, commentary has been added in parenthesis: 

Lilia Tollefsen, the CEO of Oahu’s Gunstock Ranch, gestures at long rows of tiny trees, their heart-shaped leaves quavering in the island breeze. “Our goal,” she says, “is to make the trees more valuable in the ground than out of it.”

(Ms. Tollefsen, you have no idea how dangerous those words are in court.  Clues: Whose trees?  Whose land?)

Tollefsen is showing me and a small group of would-be foresters the latest project of the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative….

The 500 acres designated for reforestation are eventually slated to shelter some 600,000 trees.

Gunstock Ranch is the third forest project for the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI),  a complex hybrid of timber investment and environmental stewardship with an ambitious goal of planting 1.3 million trees--one for every resident of Hawaii. 

(The owners of Gunstock Ranch should ask the owners of Kukaiau Ranch what’s coming next—or just CLICK HERE.) 

The project is well on track, with 400,000 trees already planted at Kukaiau Ranch on the Big Island's Hamakua Coast. There, lush forests of king koa--a hardwood tree found nowhere else on earth--are rising on what were, until recently, dusty plains and eroded hillsides.  

(Does “well on track” mean “always in court”?) 

At a second Hawaii Island ranch, Kahua in the Kohala Mountains, plans are underway to plant 700 acres in koa, ohia, sandalwood, and dozens of supporting native species. 

(“Plans are underway to plant” means nothing has been planted yet.  There’s still time to save Kahua Ranch.) 

The HLRI was founded by former investment bankers Jeff Dunster and Darrell Fox and certified as a B-Corporation.

(Wrong. Penny stock touts are not “investment bankers.”  HLRI may be “certified” but Dunster’s Cook Island corporations are not.  They’re ‘certified’ in the Panama Papers.  Hello?  Hello?)

Together with its business partner, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH), it crafts long-term lease agreements with ranchers, then plants and maintains the forests. A quarter of the trees are destined for harvest, with the rest left to be protected forever. ….

(Really Obvious Question for Ranch Owners to Consider:  How can HLH/HLRI promise trees will be “protected forever” on YOUR leased land?  They are encumbering your land with every tree.  And if the Court doesn’t buy that argument, then “Forever” means “until HLH stops making the lease payments to Kukaiau Ranch.”  According to HLH’s so-called prospectus, the first “Harvest” is supposed to be eight years after the first plantings—that’s now.  We asked Dunster when harvest would begin and when the investors would start getting their money.  He didn’t answer.)

In 2015 the program was certified by Gold Standard, an international monitoring body, to issue carbon credits in exchange for its plantings.

(Try renaming to “Pyrite Standard”.  Apparently the same group of fools do the fact checking for Gold Standard, B Corp, and the Sierra Club Magazine.  A fool and his money are soon parted.)

Hotels and other businesses, looking to up their green factor with a minimum of sacrifice, have been big supporters; in particular, the Four Seasons Ko Olina on Oahu and the Four Seasons Hualalai and the Ohilani Resort on the Big Island have made major commitments, sponsoring swaths of native trees and promoting the initiative to their guests.

(Tourists are always looking for feel-good experiences with ‘minimum sacrifice’.)

At the root of project’s success is the skyrocketing price of koa, which--as any guitar player knows--is among the most expensive woods in the world, with top quality mature wood selling as high as $200 a board foot. Investors are gambling on a big payback when the trees are harvested, 20 to 40 years from today.

(If you’ve got $15,499 burning a hole in your pocket, HLH claims it can turn it into $217,488 … or $285,519, … or $321,117.  All you have to believe is that every foot of koa will be the top ‘musical grade’ wood can sell for $150 bf.  According to HLH ‘projections’ “koa sells for $9 bf.  And ‘forked’ koa doesn’t produce much usable wood.)

So far, the business model looks promising. “We’ve got trees that are already 30 feet tall after eight years, when it was supposed to take 10 years to get to 20 feet,” says Dunster. …

(According to HLH ‘projections’, the first “harvest” is supposed to be happening about now—eight years after the first plantings.  We asked Dunster when harvest would begin and when the investors would start getting their money.  He didn’t answer.)

Jeff Dunster’s view of the future is even more optimistic. The recent plantings at Gunstock Ranch bring the total of trees in the ground to 450,000, he says, and HLRI has outstanding commitments for hundreds of thousands more. “If you can plant a tree for everyone in the state,” he says, “why not plant one for everyone in country?”

(Each tree ‘in perpetuity’ encumbers the land it is planted on.  HLH/HLRI doesn’t own the land, the Ranch does.  How difficult is this to figure out?)

Two weeks after I return home to the mainland, a certificate arrives in the mail with a tracking number for my very own personal monarch milo tree. I remember how I felt as I walked away from the plantation of tiny, vulnerable-looking trees. “Some local people come back and see their trees all the time, and visitors like to check up on them,” Tollefsen had told us. “They feel that sense of place and go away more conscious of the land and invested in its future.”

That’s exactly how I feel as I open the HRLI website and type in my tree’s number. And there it is, alive and flourishing.…

(Tourists are looking for feel-good experiences with ‘minimum sacrifice’.)

read … Sierra Club HLH Fluff Piece



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