Agency Announces Plans to Expand Hakalau Forest Refuge
by Dave Smith
The US Fish & Wildlife Service has announced plans to significantly expand the size of the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge.
The service said this week it intends to expand the refuge by 29,733 acres.
Established in 1985, the refuge currently consists of two units. The Hakalau Forest Unit consists of 32,733 acres located on the windward slopes of Mauna Kea, and the Kona Forest Unit which contains about 5,300 acres on the western slopes of Mauna Loa.
The plan is to add 19,829 acres to the Hakalau Forest Unit and 10,143 acres to the Kona Forest Unit.
Depending on the availability of funding, the Fish & Wildlife Service will work with landowners interested in either selling the land or some form of conservation interest.
The expansion aims to expand the area available for the conservation of endangered or threatened species, the service said.
Fourteen native bird species, including eight that are endangered, are known to live in the Hakalau Forest Unit. The unit and adjacent lands are also home to 29 rare plant species, 12 of which are listed as endangered.
The Kona Forest Unit was acquired in 1997 also to provide habitat for native species. In addition to the Hawaii akepa and other native birds already present, wildlife managers hope to eventually reintroduce to its forests the alala or Hawaiian crow.
The expansion effort is detailed in planning documents available at http://www.fws.gov/hakalauforest/planning.html.