Why You Should Visit
Kānepu‘u Preserve represents the best remaining example of native dryland forest that once covered vast areas of Hawaii‘s lowlands. The preserve protects remnants of a rare of native ebony (lama) and olive (olopua) dryland forest, along with several unique plant species, including the endangered native sandalwood (‘iliahi) and Hawaiian gardenia (nā‘ū). Major threats to the preserve’s native wildlife are introduced game animals (axis deer and mouflon sheep), rapid soil erosion, wildfire and a variety of invasive weeds, including Christmas berry, lantana, scarlet sage and molasses grass.
A self-guided interpretive trail with beautifully illustrated and informative signs is open to public daily from sunrise to sunset. The trail has a self-closing gate and is located in the 368-acre Kānepuʻu unit of the preserve along the road to Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods).
What to See: Plants
The dryland native forest at Kanepuu is dominated by lama and olopua trees, along with native plants species such as ʻohe makai, ʻahakea, ʻālaʻa and ʻaiea. The four endangered plant species within the preserve are the nāʻū, a native gardenia; sandalwood or ʻiliahi; Bonamia menziesii; and the maʻo hau hele, a native hibiscus.
What to See: Animals
Two native birds frequent Kānepuʻu Preserve: the pueo, or short-eared owl, and the kōlea, or Pacific golden-plover. Eleven non-native birds are also found here, along with numerous native land snails and insects.
Why TNC Selected This Site
Kānepuʻu Preserve was established in 1991 through a permanent conservation easement from then landowner Castle & Cooke. The preserve was created to protect and enhance the olopua/lama dryland forest that once covered large portions of the lowlands on Maui, Molokaʻi, Kahoʻolawe and Lānaʻi. Today, Kānepuʻu Preserve contains the last major remnants of this rare dryland forest community.
What TNC Is Doing
For more than two decades, TNC has been working with local residents and volunteers to protect and restore the unique dryland forests at Kānepu‘u. Today, TNC manages the preserve in partnership with Ike ʻAina, a native Hawaiian land trust, and is working to contain the spread of invasive plants and animals and prevent the introduction of new alien species. The long-term goal is to ensure the viability of this rare native forest by building the capacity of the local community and private landowner to become the preserve’s caretakers.