East Hawaii News

Land Board to Take Up Ka`u Forest Reserve Plan

September 27, 2012, 5:15 PM HST
* Updated September 27, 5:16 PM
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The state Board of Land and Natural Resources will vote Friday  on a management plan for the Ka`u Forest Reserve.

At its meeting in Honolulu the Land Board will also consider adopting a final environmental assessment for the plan.

According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the plan for the 61,641-acre reserve on the southeastern slopes of Mauna Loa is designed to protect a key watershed, preserve the reserve’s forest ecosystem and perpetuate its natural resources vital to Hawaiian culture and practices.

The Ka`u Forest Reserve has also been identified as a high priority site for the reintroduction of the `alala or Hawaiian crow. Although currently not found in the wild and restricted solely to captive breeding facilities, the reserve was home to the bird as recently as the 1970s.

The plan developed by the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife also calls for expanding public use of the reserve by working with adjacent landowners to provide additional access, particularly across state-leased and private land makai of the reserve.

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According to documents submitted to the appointed members of the board, the plan calls for fencing of approximately 12,000 acres in the central part of the reserve to remove introduced ungulates to protect the watershed and native ecosystem.

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The DLNR staff report said that area would be a highly suitable location for reintroduction of `alala. It also contains a relatively abundant number of rare and endangered Hawaiian forest birds such as the akepa, `i`iwi and `akiapola`au.

The area is already fenced on one side and has relatively little use by hunters, the report said, and there are also potential partnership opportunities with four adjacent properties, two owned by Kamehameha Schools and the others controlled by The Nature Conservancy.

The DOFAW plan considered fencing and removing ungulates from a larger area but rejected that because it was deemed too costly and would remove too much potential hunting area.

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As part of its public outreach on the draft plan, DOFAW conducted a public hearing and several dozen informal meetings, and contacted roughly 37 agencies, organizations and individuals. The consultation included six all-day field trips with several dozen hunters and community members, the report said.

 

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