Hawai‘i Forest Legacy Program Seeks Applicants

July 19, 2019, 6:38 PM HST (Updated July 20, 2019, 6:48 AM)
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The 1,000-acre Ka`awaloa Hawaiian Forest Conservation Easement on the western slope of Mauna Loa is one of the latest projects proposed for inclusion in the Forest Legacy Program. DLNR photo.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is seeking new projects for federally-funded forest acquisition programs: The Hawaiʻi Forest Legacy Program.

The DLNR requests any private landowners interested in “protecting and managing” forest lands and “leaving a long-term legacy for your family and the people of Hawai‘i” consider participation.

The Hawaiʻi Forest Legacy Program works with private landowners, state agencies, county agencies and conservation nonprofit groups to protect forests from conversion to non-forest uses and promote sustainable, working forests.

This program accepts both conservation easement and fee title acquisitions from willing private landowners for forested lands. Landowners may participate in the program by either selling their property outright or by retaining ownership and selling only a portion of the property’s development rights. The use of a conservation easement, a legal agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit land trust or governmental agency, allows the land to remain in private ownership while ensuring that its environmental values are retained. More than 2.6 million acres of threatened private forests in the US have been protected under the Forest Legacy Program, according to a DLNR press release.

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Applications are due August 19, 2019.

“In Hawai‘i, DLNR has protected over 50,000 acres through the Forest Legacy Program with the help of land trusts and conservation-minded landowners,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “We are currently working to complete program-funded projects to protect an additional 6,800 acres of important forested lands and are excited about developing new projects for the upcoming funding cycle.”

The most recently completed Forest Legacy Program project was the purchase of the Helemano Wilderness Area in 2018, which will result in Oʻahu residents gaining new outdoor recreational opportunities, watershed protection and improvement of habitat for native species. The DLNR will be working with the community over the coming year to create a management plan for this area.

The Forest Legacy Program is a tool in Hawai‘i where approximately 66% of forests are privately owned, the release continued. These forests help provide our isolated island chain its most precious resource — fresh water. Hawai‘i’s tropical forests have suffered from clearing, invasive species and conversion for other uses. The state has identified certain forest lands as important and in need of permanent protection through the program. Priorities include protection of Hawai‘i’s unique and fragile environmental resources, watershed health and rare and/or endangered species, scenic beauty, recreation and forests used for traditional cultural practices. Protecting and cultivating forests that provide economic benefits that help diversify Hawai‘i’s economy is also a major program goal.

Landowners, counties and nonprofits interested in participating in the Forest Legacy Program are encouraged to contact Tanya Rubenstein at the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife at (808) 587-0027 or by email at [email protected].

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