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State warns against illegal burning of Christmas trees at Kāne‘ohe Sandbar

People burn Christmas trees at Ahu O Laka.
Department of Land and Natural Resources
People burn Christmas trees at Ahu O Laka.

The state announced Tuesday that there will be a 'zero-tolerance' policy for Christmas tree burning at the Kāne‘ohe Bay sandbar on Oʻahu this year.

Videos posted on social media in early 2021 sparked the need for active state regulation on the issue, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The state warned that burning trees at the sandbar, also referred to as Ahu O Laka, can harm the marine ecosystem and is disrespectful to Native Hawaiians who considered the land to be sacred.

"The iwi (remains) of Chief Laka of Maui were brought by his sons and buried there centuries ago. Once iwi is buried in an area, it is consecrated and considered ‘kapu’, or sacred to Native Hawaiians," said Leialoha Kaluhiwa, president of the Koʻolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club.

While there were no reports of tree burnings in late 2021 or early 2022, DLNR said it is up to witnesses to remain vigilant.

"Clearly, our officers cannot be everywhere, all the time, and the faster we receive reports about illegal activities, the better chance we have of responding in time to educate violators, and when necessary, to cite them," said Jason Redulla, chief of the DLNR's law enforcement branch.

"All we ask is for everyone to respect the ‘āina.”

Illegal fires at Ahu O Laka can be reported to DLNR’s enforcement branch by calling 808-643-3567.

Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's "This Is Our Hawaiʻi" podcast. Contact her at sharrimanpote@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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