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Waimea forest purchased for $3.7M to keep in conservation

A large swath of land on Oahu’s North Shore, including the upper Waimea watershed, will now be protected as part of the state’s forest reserve, thanks to a recent acquisition.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, along with The Trust for Public Land and other partners, recently completed the $3.7 million purchase of 3,716 acres in Waimea from the Dole Food Company.

With this most recent acquisition, the state now oversees a slice of land stretching from the Koolau summit to the sea at Waimea Bay.

The purchase of “Waimea Native Forest” was made with the state’s Legacy Land Program, along with federal and private funds, including contributions from Kawailoa Wind LLC and the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.

According to DLNR chief Suzanne Case, the program has helped fund 35 acquisitions since 2006, with a total contribution of $33.1 million.

“The Waimea Native Forest acquisition is the most acreage conserved in a single transaction involving the program’s financial support,” said Case in a news release.

DOFAW said it will develop a management plan that includes improvements to the watershed and habitat, as well as public, recreational access.

“Purchasing, protecting, and opening this forest area will increase opportunities for public access for hunting, hiking, cultural activities, and environmental education,” said DLNR in a news release.

In particular, DOFAW will focus on controlling invasive species to help recharge North Shore aquifers fed by Kamananui and Elehaha streams.

“This watershed feeds directly into Waimea Falls, Waimea Valley, and ultimately Waimea Bay, which is part of the Hawaiian Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary and the Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District,” said DLNR in a news release. “DOFAW’s management of the upper ahupuaa will help reduce erosion and soil runoff into the bay, which will, in turn improve an important calving area for humpback whales in and around the bay and resting habitat for spinner dolphins that frequent the area.”

Reforestation efforts are expected to improve habitat for endangered Hawaiian hoary bats as well as birds, snails, insects and plants.

“This is an incredible step forward in our ability to protect the whole community of species that rely on safe and healthy watershed habitats,” said Katherine Mullett, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office in the release.

The Trust for Public Land’s state director Lea Hong said, to date, Dole has worked with it and the state to conserve nearly 7,000 acres on Oahu.

The trust negotiated the purchase, and partnered with DOFAW to raise the $3.7 million, with contributions from federal, state and private partners.

The breakdown is as follows:

>> U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Recovery Land Acquisition, $2,070,875

>> The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program, $600,000

>> State of Hawaii Legacy Land Conservation Program, $416,125

>> Kawailoa Wind, LLC, $354,000

>> Sidney E. Frank Foundation, $275,000

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