In the final episode of our year-long series, Forests for Life, in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, we explore native forests and culture, delving into one culturally rich aspect of our forests.

Doug Bumatay is one of the few skilled individuals who can take a koa log and transform it into a racing canoe. While working on these magnificent canoes, Doug often wonders about the techniques and tools used by his ancestors. He learned this art from his father, who, in turn, learned from his own grandfather.

At the Kapapala Canoe Forest on Hawaiʻi Island, Doug teams up with Riley De Mattos from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. They discuss the importance of using koa for canoe building and ensuring this knowledge is passed on to future generations. DLNR’s forestry division is currently finalizing a management plan for the Kapapala Canoe Forest, which will enable traditional koa canoe builders to harvest a certain number of logs.

For Doug, building a massive racing canoe from enormous logs has been a learning process rooted in family tradition. Today, he hopes to continue this tradition through his 17-year-old son, who is showing interest in the craft.

As Doug and the few remaining “traditional” canoe builders anticipate the day when they can harvest trees from the Kapapala Canoe Forest, he reflects on the importance of preserving and practicing this traditional art form.

This concludes our Forests for Life series. Our thanks to the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources for illustrating the many ways Hawaiʻi’s forests enrich our lives. To learn more about Hawaiʻi’s forests or to make a donation to protect natural areas, visit