Honolulu – A recent land acquisition by federal, state and private-sector partners has ensured the protection of an entire watershed and nearly the entire ahupua‘a, from the Koʻolau summit to Waimea Bay. This native forest provides habitat for native plants and animals, many of them rare and endangered.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) have completed the purchase of 3,716 acres – the upper Waimea watershed – from Dole Food Company. With lower Waimea Valley protected in 2006, and Waimea Beach Park at the makai or shoreline boundary, this acquisition completes decades of efforts to protect Waimea from the summit to the sea. DOFAW intends to add property to the Forest Reserve System, specifically as the Waimea Section of the Pūpūkea-Paumalu Forest Reserve. DOFAW will develop a management plan that will include public access for recreation while also improving the watershed and native species habitat for viability into the future.
The protection and management of the Waimea Native Forest will provide substantial community benefits. The majority of O‘ahu’s North Shore is privately owned. Purchasing, protecting, and opening this forest area will increase opportunities for public access for hunting, hiking, cultural activities, and environmental education.
In addition, DOFAW is planning to improve habitat for native species by controlling invasive species. Effective management of invasives will help recharge North Shore aquifers fed by Kamananui and ʻElehaha streams, securing clean drinking water for generations to come. This watershed feeds directly into Waimea Falls, Waimea Valley, and ultimately Waimea Bay, which is part of the Hawaiian Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary and the Pūpukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District. DOFAW’s management of the upper ahupuaʻa will help reduce erosion and soil runoff into the bay, which will, in turn improve an important calving area for humpback whales in and around the bay and resting habitat for spinner dolphins that frequent the area.
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented, “The State’s Legacy Land Program is an important and vital method of preserving some of Hawai‘i’s most treasured mountain lands and coastlines in perpetuity. The program, with tremendous support from the Hawai‘i State Legislature, has helped fund 35 acquisitions since 2006, with a total Legacy Land contribution of $33.1 million. The Waimea Native Forest acquisition is the most acreage conserved in a single transaction involving the program’s financial support.”
Permanently protecting this property will also preserve existing quality habitat for the elusive, endangered ʻŌpeʻapeʻa, or Hawaiian Hoary Bat, the official state land mammal. While management and reforestation efforts will create more feeding and roosting opportunities for bats, along with improved habitat for endangered birds, snails, insects and plants known to live on or near the property.
“Kawailoa Wind is glad to partner with the Trust for Public Land and the State of Hawai‘i on another conservation partnership designed to protect important habitat for native species including the Hawaiian hoary bat,” said Bryan Martin, CEO & Founder of D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, owner and operator of Kawailoa Wind, LLC. “We continue to be committed to furthering Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and are pleased our work is contributing toward habitat conservation, research, and protection.”
“This is an incredible step forward in our ability to protect the whole community of species that rely on safe and healthy watershed habitats,” said Katherine Mullett, Field Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.
“The Waimea Forest project fits perfectly into the Acres for America program, which Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) launched to conserve our nation’s diverse landscapes and increase public access to nature,” said Jeff Trandahl, CEO and Executive Director of NFWF. “This landscape-scale project will not only protect 3,700 acres of important wildlife habitat. Enhancing habitat on those acres will help protect the entire North Shore ecosystem, from the top of the ridges to the waters of Waimea Bay.”
“The Trust for Public Land would like to thank Chairman David Murdock of Dole Food Company, his Hawaiʻi team Dan Nellis and Harry Saunders, and Dole’s CBRE broker Andy Albano for their patience and commitment to Hawai’i’s natural resources in working through the many challenges in this and other agricultural and conservation transactions Dole has participated in. This culminated in the protection of the Waimea Native Forest watershed vital to the health of the North Shore and Waimea Bay. To date, Dole has worked with TPL and the State to conserve nearly 7,000 acres on O’ahu, the State’s most populated island,” said TPL’s State Director, Lea Hong.
The Trust for Public Land negotiated the purchase, partnering with DOFAW to raise the $3,716,000 needed to purchase the property through an incredible partnership, including contributions by federal, state and private partners:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Recovery Land Acquisition ($2,070,875)
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program ($600,000)
State of Hawai‘i Legacy Land Conservation Program ($416,125)
Kawailoa Wind, LLC ($354,000)
Sidney E. Frank Foundation ($275,000)