Nature Conservancy, Alexander & Baldwin Agreement Creates State’s Largest Private Nature Preserve
3,721 acres of East Maui rainforest added to Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve
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The Nature Conservancy and East Maui Irrigation Company, Limited (EMI), a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., have closed an historic agreement that will create the largest private nature reserve in Hawaiʻi, nearly doubling the size of the Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve. The A&B land shares a seven-mile boundary with the Nature Conservancy’s 5,230-acre Waikamoi Preserve. Together, the two properties will result in nearly 9,000 acres of protected rainforest.
“This area has been one of The Nature Conservancy’s highest priorities for more than two decades. The land lies at the core of the 100,000-acre East Maui watershed and is one of the most intact pieces of native forest in the state,” said Mark White, director of the Conservancy’s Maui Nui Program. “Now, thanks to A&B and EMI, it will continue to be protected in perpetuity.”
EMI granted to The Nature Conservancy a conservation easement giving it management control of the land. The site covers 3,721 acres of entirely undeveloped rainforest high above Makawao, at elevations from 3,600 to 9,500 feet above sea level. The conservation easement was valued at $190,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Program, through the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, funded up to 75% of the acquisition costs. A&B provided the Conservancy the easement at a discounted price of $142,500, donating the required 25% in matching private funds, or $47,500 worth of value.
“For over 140 years, EMI has been dedicated to being a good steward and protecting these lands,” said Garret Hew, president of EMI. “This agreement gives us an opportunity to again partner with The Nature Conservancy, which has the expertise and capacity to enhance the protection of this important natural resource.”
Located a mile high, in the dense native rainforest of windward Haleakalā, the property is a treasure chest of native wildlife so remote that no roads and few trails lead there. Its isolation has served to protect the area. The rainforest is home to 20 threatened or endangered native plants, and to two exceedingly rare native forest birds: the ʻakohekohe, or crested honeycreeper; and the kiwikiu, or Maui parrotbill. Despite its isolation, the land is threatened by a range of invasive species, from feral pigs and cattle to strawberry guava, pampas grass and Himalayan ginger. Controlling those threats will create safe new habitat for the ʻakohekoe and kiwikiu, birds whose once-declining populations have stabilized in the original Waikamoi Preserve.
“The first conservation move is to establish a three-mile, $600,000 fence to block pig and cattle access on EMI land,” said White. “One mile of fence has already been constructed with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, State Department of Health and Maui County Department of Water Supply. The fence protects a 12,000-acre core area that includes the majority of Waikamoi and part of the EMI easement, and will now be managed to help stop the degradation that is starting to occur.”
Since 1991, EMI has participated in the conservation of the lands as part of the East Maui Watershed Partnership. The other partners include The Nature Conservancy, Haleakala Ranch, Hana Ranch Partners, Haleakala National Park, the Maui Department of Water Supply and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“The EMI conservation easement was the result of great teamwork, bringing together the federal government, the state, the private landowners and the Conservancy,” said Suzanne Case, the Conservancy’s Hawaiʻi executive director. “It took a long time to pull it together, but this area lies at the heart of the East Maui watershed, and native forest just doesn’t get any better.”
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