HILO »The chief executive officer of a lumber manufacturing company remains optimistic that commercial eucalyptus logging could begin next year on the Hamakua Coast.
Tradewinds Hawaiian Woods hopes to harvest and process logs at a sawmill operation in Ookala, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.
"We’re just starting to go through a series of permit applications," CEO Don Bryan said.
The company hopes to have "local plantation woods for international and local sales" in a year. Timber would be mainly eucalyptus "but other exotic woods as well," he told the Rotary Club of South Hilo last month.
The company would start out harvesting about 150 acres and grow to 300 acres, he said. The operation could employ 35 workers.
Bryan has advocated Big Island eucalyptus harvesting for a decade. He was point man for Tradewinds Forest Products, which drew community opposition when it proposed a sawmill to process eucalyptus into veneer wood at an old Ookala sugar mill.
"This is a completely different company and has nothing to do with Tradewinds Forest Products," Bryan said.
The company holds one license that would allow it to harvest trees from 1,000 acres of the Waiakea Timber Management Area. Sherri Mann, a state Division of Forestry and Wildlife Cooperative Resource Management forester, said the license was included in Tradewinds’ purchase of Hawaii Island Hardwoods.
The state is working on an environmental assessment for the entire 12,000-acre Waiakea Timber Management Area, due in about six months, Mann said.
Bryan said the Hamakua lands are habitat for the federally protected Hawaiian hoary bat. Logging is unlikely to affect the bats, he said.
"Any harvesting would have to take into account the needs of the hoary bat, what steps have to be taken to protect them. That’s what we’ll need to do," he said.