Three properties in the Ka‘u District of Hawaii Island are among five the Legacy Land Conservation Commission identified as its top priorities for acquisition with the purpose of preservation for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021.
The three are Kaunamano, Kiolakaa and Manakaa.
While 13 properties requiring $15 million were recommended for funding, the existing budget of $6.4 million will fund five of the top-ranked properties statewide. The recommendations require approval by the Board of Land and Natural Resources and Gov. David Ige.
Title to all three Big Island properties, if funded by grants from the state’s Land Conservation Fund, will be awarded to the Ala Kahakai Trail Association, with conservation easements to all three held by the county.
The trail association’s website describes its mission as “to support and guide a community-managed trail that honors those who came before and perpetuates for those to follow — with protocols and respect for Hawaii’s past, present and future.”
“When we get these properties, even though we may be the titleholders, it is really for the community that we are trying to preserve and protect these places,” trail association secretary Kaleo Paik said Thursday.
Paik added the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail covers 177 miles from Upolu Point to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The properties this will protect … will be from South Point to Honu‘apo,” she said. “… The state already owns Waiohonu, which is a nice, large portion of that. But with this acquisition, we can have a contiguous preservation from South Point to Honu‘apo.”
The commission recommended full funding for Fiscal Year 2020 of Kaunamano.
It consists of five undeveloped parcels of 1,363 acres between Naalehu and Honu‘apo, fronting four miles of Ka‘u coastline and rising to 600 feet in elevation.
The entire property is licensed for cattle grazing, which, according to a Department of Land and Natural Resources statement, “frequently brings people in to help protect sensitive resources and would provide a revenue stream to support future management actions.”
The commission recommended full funding for Fiscal Year 2021 for Kiolakaa. The 1,840 acres recommended for acquisition begin at Kaalualu Bay, a popular camping spot, and stretch over four miles inland to 700 feet in elevation.
Ranchers hold license agreements to graze cattle on portions of this property, as well as on adjacent lands also slated for conservation with Legacy Land Conservation Program funding, according to the DLNR.
The commission is recommending a partial grant award for Fiscal Year 2021 for Manakaa, a 348-acre property on an undeveloped coastal parcel just south of Naalehu, where Manakaa fishing village sits on the cliffs overlooking Waikapuna.
The DLNR said ranchers also hold license agreements to graze cattle on portions of this property, as well as on adjacent lands also tabbed for conservation with Legacy Land Conservation Program funding.
“Every one of the properties has significant cultural resources as well as natural resources,” Paik said, noting that Kaunamano also has a village site and mauka-makai trails.
“When the plantations closed, they sold off their lands to private ownerships, and these private landowners were there to speculate for development,” she explained. “So the Ka‘u community was hoping that these lands could be preserved, and they were looking for organizations that could help the community preserve and protect these resources. Because Ka‘u people, they still do a lot of subsistence living, whether it be fishing or gathering and hunting. And these particular areas are a lot of beach access or coastline access for fishermen.
“(Ala Kahakai Trail Association) is extremely excited to be a part of helping the community to preserve and protect this vast cultural landscape for the future generations.”
The other two properties recommended for funding by the commission are Makaalae Lands in Hana, Maui, and Mapulehu on Molokai.
The commission also recommended an increase to the program’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget to provide funding for an additional eight properties, including a conservation easement covering 2,780 acres of working forest lands in West Hawaii.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.