Norman offers community education and outreach at his Cloud Forest Sanctuary.
Everyone’s heard of the rainforest…but what about a cloud forest? These tropical or subtropical areas characterized by high humidity and persistent cloud cover provide habitat and protection for a variety of species, including native plants and animals, found nowhere else, and they are essential for supplying rainfall to the watersheds beneath them.
The most accessible cloud forest in Hawai‘i is the privately owned 70-acre Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary on the slopes of Hualalai. This family trust dedicated to “living forest friendly” offers botanical tours, education, and special events to support education, protection, and reforestation of tropical rainforests and cloud forests. Much of its area is covered with native plants, including many rare and endangered species, including huge koa, ‘ōhi‘a, hapu‘u ferns, Hawaiian hawks, and ‘i‘iwi.
The Sanctuary steward is Emeritus Professor Norman Bezona, who has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to tropical horticulture and, even after retirement, continues to give back to the college, the community, and the cloud forest. After graduating from UH’s then-College of Tropical Agriculture in 1960, he did graduate work in Florida and then returned to Ka‘ū as a diversified crop horticulturist. He began acquiring forest land in 1982, creating what would become the Sanctuary. His children and grandchildren are also involved, along with his partner Voltaire Moise.
Dr. Norman Bezona has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to tropical horticulture and continues to give back.
Much of the forest surrounding the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is being subdivided, bulldozed, and cleared for private owners, making Norman’s work even more crucial. He recently entered into an agreement with Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to preserve 10 acres of the forest through a conservation easement, which prohibits deforestation in perpetuity, and he plans to ultimately put all the land in this trust.
Norman’s volunteer outreach also extends beyond the cloud forest; he serves as Hawai‘i director for the International Palm Society and advisor to the Hawai‘i Chapter of the American Bamboo Society. He has visited many equatorial forest regions worldwide as a consultant and continues to work with organizations on special projects around the world. He writes articles for local publications, including weekly columns for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today, and works with the community to support tropical forest protection.
At the Sanctuary, Norman Bezona hopes that whether they have come to walk the botanical trails, participate in educational programs, or be guests at special functions, visitors will be imbued with greater respect and appreciation for tropical ecosystems. And if they take him as their inspiration, they will be!