For immediate release: September 22, 2022


The Waimea and Kohala Mountains provide an excellent example of mutual watershed protection

To see the video, click on the photo or watch on this link: https://vimeo.com/752730102

(Waimea) – This town on the island of Hawai’i, on the southern slopes of the Kohala Mountains, has a rich and storied ranching history. Waimea grew up around the sprawling Parker Ranch, one of the first and largest cattle operations in the state. Its breeding heritage is visible everywhere. Agriculture and Waimea are intrinsically linked.

Zachary Judd, the ranch’s forestry manager, has a unique perspective on this bond. Until a year and a half ago, he was a nature reserve system specialist in the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) of DLNR. “I don’t think cattle ranching here and forestry are mutually exclusive,” Judd said.

He says Parker Ranch, the city of Waimea, surrounding communities and other agricultural interests are heavily dependent on the forests and watersheds of the Kohala Mountains. “As we look to the future and continue to develop our internal forestry program, we are looking for ways to integrate more forestry into the landscape to benefit our ranching operation, the environment and provide these functions. essential ecological resources that native forests provide.”

The ranch identified forestry as a strategic priority in 2017 with the hiring of its first forestry manager. “I came on board in 2021 to implement some of the management activities we offer. Parker Ranch has a long history of supporting forestry efforts in Kohala, demonstrated by being an early signatory and supporter of the original Kohala Watershed Partnership in 2003,” Judd explained.

The country’s first forestry agency was established in Hawaii. In 1903 agricultural interests successfully argued for the creation of the agency because even then they needed the protection of forests to protect dwindling water supplies.

The Kohala Mountain Watershed Partnership, like nine others in the state, works collaboratively with DLNR and private landowners to manage forests to protect critical watershed resources. As a DOFAW employee, for approximately a decade, Judd spent countless weeks working in the Kohala Forest Preserve to help maintain the direct link between the health of the forest above Waimea and the amount and water quality.

The Kohala forests provide all of Waimea’s drinking water and water for the various agricultural and ranching operations in the area.

Beginning high in the mountains, water for agricultural use is captured by four ditch systems originally constructed in the early 20e century. “The vital nature of watershed protection was recognized by territorial foresters of the time. One mentioned that the value of Kohala Mountain forests is not timber, where most of the trees are no taller than a person. The value of this one is water and I agree with that 100%,” added Judd.

Parker Ranch was founded before the development of the irrigation system and was a very different operation than it is today. Spread over 130,000 acres of leasehold and leasehold land across Mauna Kea and the Kohala Mountain, the operation knows that having a constant supply of water is essential to any agricultural operation or expansion. Judd says it’s even more critical now with climate change and weather patterns becoming more and more unpredictable.

“Having this water resource is vital to everything we do now and in the future. It is important that agricultural interests have a place at the table in protecting the water resources that feed our operations. Having this headquarters and collaborating with DOFAW and the watershed partnership is vital for us and for our community,” he concluded.

This is the first in a series of monthly releases, illustrating the many partnerships between DLNR and agricultural interests.

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(All images/videos courtesy of DLNR)

HD Video – DLNR Support for Agriculture: Watershed Protection:

HD Video – Parker Ranch and Kohala Mountain Watershed (September 13, 2022):

Photographs – Parker Ranch and Kohala Mountain Watershed (September 13, 2022):


Media Contact:

Dan Denison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources

[email protected]

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