Monday, Dec. 04, 2023|
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Nearly 30,000 acres of Ka‘u pasture land changed hands last week after a state bureaucratic shuffle.
The Kapapala Ranch, which encompasses about 31,000 acres in Ka‘u just north of Pahala, was mostly transferred from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to the state Department of Agriculture in order to fulfill the terms of a 2003 law.
That law, Act 90, established a process for DLNR to transfer lands classified for agricultural use to the DOA, on the basis that the latter agency is more appropriate to manage agricultural lands.
However, DLNR Land Division Assistant Administrator Kevin Moore told the Board of Land and Natural Resources earlier this year that only 19,000 acres of more than 100,000 eligible acres statewide have been transferred in this way, due to unwillingness by both agencies to commit to the transfers.
The Kapapala Ranch is an exception, and the BLNR on Friday approved the transfer of about 25,000 acres of the ranch to the DOA, with the remaining 7,000 acres staying under DLNR management.
A future public hearing will take place to determine whether the 7,000 acres should be used to expand the Kapapala Forest Reserve. Regardless of the outcome of that hearing, the DOA will retain an easement over those 7,000 acres for the purposes of constructing a water pipeline through them.
Lani Cran-Petrie, daughter of original ranch lessee Gordon Cran, said Friday at the BLNR meeting that her family has proven itself trustworthy to manage state lands and was broadly supportive of the transfer, adding that it gives her enough time to consider longer-term projects that were unfeasible under the DLNR lease.
Because the DLNR auctions off public leases as they expire, she said, she didn’t have enough time to invest in “silvopasture,” pasture management practices that integrate livestock operations and trees on the same land, before her DLNR lease expired.
“We, too, want to see ‘ohi‘a trees that are dying be replaced,” Cran-Petrie said. “We, too, want to see mamane and koa propagated. We never had a long enough term to do that. We do now.”
Big Island BLNR member Riley Smith was visibly emotional during the meeting as he praised the management of the ranch. He mentioned the 2018 Keauhou wildfire, which he said stopped at the ranch’s boundaries thanks to good fuel reduction practices.
“(The fire) came to our boundaries within 24 hours,” Cran-Petrie said. “We fought it for five, six days. … We had reduced our fuel loads, obviously.
“It came roaring across the national park, which had fuel loads built up over 80 years.”
Several individuals and organizations submitted testimony supporting the land transfer, including the Hawaii Farm Bureau and the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, both of which stated that the DOA is the best suited to support agricultural ventures.
Nicole Galase, managing director of the Cattlemen’s Council, said at Friday’s meeting that Cran-Petrie and her father have both been inducted into the council’s Paniolo Hall of Fame, which she said is a testament to her family’s willingness to work hard and care for the land.
The board ultimately voted unanimously in favor of the transfer.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.
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