Honolulu – Kohala lands within the Kula Iwi (homeland) of Kamehameha the Great on Hawai‘i island; stunningly beautiful coastal pasture in Hāna, Maui; restored access to a Hawaiian fishpond on Kaua‘i’s north shore; and two tracts of high-quality O‘ahu forest can now be protected for public benefit with the help of grant funding from the State Legacy Land Conservation Program. The highly competitive grant program supports local organizations and government agencies that work to protect cultural and historical sites, agricultural lands, natural areas, watersheds, and other valuable resources that benefit the public.
On April 26, 2019, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) approved recommendations from the Legacy Land Conservation Commission and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to award nearly $4.5 million in state grants for land acquisition that serve conservation purposes.
In the order ranked by the Commission, the properties to be conserved (and the approved grantees) are:
• Pia Valley, a rare and rich 300-acre oasis for endangered native plants and wildlife below the Ko‘olau crest in east O‘ahu, as an addition to the State Natural Area Reserves System (Division of Forestry and Wildlife).
• Kapanaia, a premier fishing and gathering area for the Kohala community, covers 83 acres that are heavily laden with historic remnants of early Hawaiian settlements and the Kamehameha era, on the island of Hawai‘i (County of Hawai‘i).
• Mokae to Maka‘alae Lands, an oceanfront fishing/gathering place in Hāna, Maui that is rich in cultural resources and historical significance, including an ancient settlement area and old-growth hala trees, nestled within 27 acres of ranch land (Ke Ao Hali‘i, with a conservation easement to be held by Hawaiian Islands Land Trust).
• Kāne‘ohe Pali to Lo‘i, spanning nearly 950 acres of Ko‘olau mountain terrain in windward O‘ahu, is a key freshwater source and high-value cultural landscape that also holds federally-designated critical habitat for over 45 endangered species (DOFAW in partnership with The Trust for Public Land).
• Halulu Fishpond Access, a quarter-acre lot with highway frontage in a high-value residential neighborhood, that includes a portion of the community path to Halulu Fishpond and Hanalei Bay in the Halele‘a District, Kaua‘i (Waipā Foundation, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, with a conservation easement to be held by County of Kaua‘i).
The BLNR approved, for the fourth year in a row, an annual debt service payment ($1.5 million) for the State’s Turtle Bay reimbursable general obligation bonds, which funded the State’s purchase of land and a conservation easement at Ko‘olauloa, O‘ahu. The BLNR also approved three grants as back-ups for funding. Two are for DOFAW to purchase conservation easements over two separate tracts of forested land at Kona, totaling over 2,500 acres, and one is for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to purchase a conservation easement at Waikalua Loko I‘a, a traditional Hawaiian fishpond in Ko‘olauloa, O‘ahu. Despite the regulation of land use and development in Hawai‘i, lands that hold important resource values are often unprotected, inaccessible, and threatened with damage and destruction.
The State Legislature established the Land Conservation Fund in 2005 to provide permanent adequate funding for land conservation by dedicating proceeds from the real estate conveyance tax to the Fund. The grant application and approval process includes consultation with three State agencies (DLNR, Department of Agriculture, and Agribusiness Development Corporation). The process also requires field visits and public meetings with the Legacy Land Conservation Commission; consultation with the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the State House of Representatives; environmental review; and final approval by the BLNR, the Department of Budget and Finance, and the Governor.
DLNR encourages state agencies, counties, and nonprofit land conservation organizations interested in securing a grant from the Land Conservation Fund to contact the Legacy Land Conservation Program, by phone or email, at (808) 586-0921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next open period for grant applications begins on May 6, 2019, and applications are due July 22, 2019. Approximately $3.2 million is expected to be available for grants in each of two upcoming funding cycles.