Hawaii used to be a remote island home to only local residents and wildlife. Now, it’s widely known as a must-visit tourist destination.

But as the state has opened up to the rest of the globe, the native species of Hawaii are under increasing pressure to survive. The US-based Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working with the local population to restore the archipelago’s original forests. The largest state forest reserve, Ka’ Forest Reserve, is located in the Ka’ region, where TNC biologist Chris Balzotti has been in charge of a thorough restoration project. The project started in 2002 to conserve the intact woods on 3,548 acres of the 61,500 acres of the Ka’ Forest Reserve. A guided tour of the native forest takes place among the dense hi’a and koa trees, including the uluhe and hpu’u ferns, which intertwine to form a stunning forest shade. Here, rare native species like the nuku ‘i’iwi thrive, and many birds have a secure spot to lay their eggs. This priceless piece of land is also home to the Hawaiian Happy-Faced Spider.

“It’s important to have native areas like this because it allows the indigenous community to connect with the species that are culturally important to them,” senior scientist and cultural advisor for TNC Dr. Sam Gon says. “Their relationship to the land is sacred. We take that sacred trust seriously.”