In an effort to protect native forests, watersheds, and reefs in southeast Moloka‘i, TNC Hawai'i and Palmyra, in partnership with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), purchased five parcels of land in the Mākolelau area in September, dedicating the land for conservation and restoration. This is the first land deal TNC has made in Hawai'i in 10 years.
The purchase was made possible with a $1.8M grant from the USFWS and over $600,000 in private donations to TNC.
Mākolelau is part of a contiguous watershed, designated by the State Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) as a Priority 1 Watershed, contributing to the Moloka‘i Sole Source Aquifer. The area's higher elevations contain intact native forests which are proven to be superior to habitats dominated by introduced species at generating fresh water supplies and reducing erosion that can damage coral reefs.
The fisheries supported by Moloka‘i reefs are an important food source for island residents. Summit to sea planning and management will help protect the state’s longest fringing reef from siltation and storm run-off due to heavy rain events, supporting habitat and marine life. Through conservation management efforts, DOFAW estimates up to four metric tons of soil will be stopped from entering the ocean and washing down current each year.
Proposed restoration actions include controlling feral hoofed animal populations, removing invasive plant species, restoring native ecosystems, and building and maintaining a network of firebreaks, vital to preventing the spread of wildfires.
The Mākolelau parcels will now link to other conservation lands from east to west and from the summit of Moloka‘i to the sea, providing continuous corridors for endangered forest and sea birds, over 50 native plant species (38 endangered), and invertebrates following streams from sea level to head waters. The parcels are part of the East Moloka‘i Watershed Partnership, in which contiguous private landowners are working on conservation projects.
“We are thrilled to be part of this effort that recognizes the forest as a critical watershed for the island and home to species found only in Hawai‘i," says Ulalia Woodside, Executive Director, TNC Hawai‘i and Palmyra. "This acquisition provides an opportunity to restore native landscape across the ahupuaʻa from mauka to makai (mountains to sea), and will benefit the reef."
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