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Hawai‘i Land Trust Moves $4 Million Closer to 640-Acre Purchase at Māhukona

October 18, 2021, 12:30 PM HST
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Hawai‘i Land Trust announced Monday, Oct. 18 that it has received a $4 million Recovery Land Acquisition grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to support the conservation purchase of more than 640 acres at Māhukona on the Kohala Coast of the Island of Hawai‘i.

The Māhukona lands are a historic center and training ground for traditional navigation of importance to the entire Pacific region, and contain hundreds of ancient cultural sites and unique habitat for native species both on land and in the clear coastal waters. At Māhukona, ancient and once-forgotten voyaging skills are now practiced and taught to future generations using the cultural sites on the land, the dynamic ocean, and the many native species and elemental forces of Māhukona.

Established in fiscal year 2001, Recovery Land Acquisition grants promote state and federal cooperation in threatend and endangered species conservation by leveraging funds to acquire specific parcels of land in support of USFWS-approved recovery plans and outlines. The grant for Māhukona was the only Recovery Land Acquisition funding awarded in Hawai‘i in the 2021 fiscal year, out of a total of more than $29 million in RLA grants distributed across 11 states.

“Collaborative and inclusive partnerships like the conservation work at Māhukona are essential for the recovery of threatened and endangered species,” said Earl Campbell, Field Supervisor with the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to supporting the conservation of Hawaiʻi’s native species and the landscapes and partnerships that support them.”

Hawaiʻi Land Trust, in partnership with the nonprofit Nā Kalai Waʻa and the Kohala community, is working to purchase over 640 acres at Māhukona for perpetual conservation, cultural site protection, and community education and enjoyment. The lands have been slated for various development proposals over the years, with a portion of the property being zoned for resort development.

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“As a Native Hawaiian and a proud product of the small fishing village of Miloliʻi in South Kona, I have always supported conservation efforts of land areas that are subject to development, especially those that have significant archaeological significance,” said Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele. “I am pleased to hear that Hawaiʻi Land Trust’s USFWS Recovery Land Acquisition grant request of $4 million has been awarded. Our communities thrive when businesses, residents and public servants place value on cultural resources deserving of preservation. Hawaiʻi is quite different from any other state in the nation as it sits in isolation in the middle of the Pacific. We are reliant on these types of efforts to ensure the sustainability of land stewardship and conservation.”

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The effort to protect Māhukona continues to gain momentum with Hawaiʻi Land Trust and the private landowner signing an agreement to purchase the property. Hawaiʻi County’s Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Commission has also ranked Māhukona its No. 1 priority for protection, and now the federal RLA grant has been announced.

In total, Hawaiʻi Land Trust has raised over $12 million of the $20 million needed for Māhukona’s purchase and perpetual stewardship, and is seeking matching public and private funds to complete the effort.

“We’re honored to be afforded the privilege of forming a private-public partnership to ensure the continued stewardship, conservation, cultural preservation, and community access of Māhukona for generations to come,” said Mayor Mitch Roth.

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“The ability to perpetuate Hawaiian culture such as traditional navigation is inextricably tied to ecosystem health. Removing the development threat on these lands through a conservation purchase and perpetual conservation easement ensures the generational continuance of Hawaiian culture and lifeways, community educational access, and restoration and health of native dryland and coastal ecosystems. This generous federal grant significantly helps us move one step closer to this goal,” said Laura Kaakua, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiʻi Land Trust.

Hawaiʻi Land Trust protects and stewards the lands that sustain Hawaiʻi, and teaches future generations to do the same. To date, Hawaiʻi Land Trust has protected more than 21,500 acres throughout the Islands – 2,100 acres are Hawaiʻi Land Trust owned public preserves open for everyone to enjoy, and over 19,000 acres are protected via conservation easements restricting privately owned lands. HILT protects coastlines, wahi kupuna (Hawaiian cultural landscapes), and lands that grow healthy food for Hawaiʻi’s people.

A complete list of Recovery Land Acquisition grant projects approved in fiscal year 2021 is available online. To learn more or help support HILT’s programs, visit HILT.org.

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