Board Talk

Plans for Ka`u Forest, `Ahihi-Kinau Approved; Honolulu Reserve Expands

On September 28, the Land Board voted to exchange its interest in four parcels in Niu Valley for the fee simple interest in one of them, which will be added to the forest reserve after the DLNR holds public hearings.

To many conservationists, the 61,600-acre Ka`u Forest Reserve on the Big Island contains some of the best forest in the state, particularly for native birds.

So when the state Board of Land and Natural Resources recently entertained a recommendation from its Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to approve a 15-year management plan for the reserve that proposed fencing off and actively managing 20 percent of the reserve, the Conservation Council for Hawai`i (CCH) and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i (TNCH) offered their enthusiastic support.

“The Ka`u Forest Reserve is the missing link … between the forest bird habitats on the Big Island,” CCH executive director Marjorie Ziegler told the Land Board at its September 28 meeting.

While her organization would have preferred that DOFAW protect the entire reserve for native species, “you have to start somewhere,” and the plan does commit to protecting the upper half of the reserve for native species, Ziegler said.

TNCH’s Mark Fox also testified in support of the plan, stating that it was “a pleasure and honor” for his organization to have had an opportunity to participate in developing the plan. TNCH staff helped bring more than 80 members of the public to the forest “to see what this plan is all about,” he said. TNCH manages four inholdings within the Ka`u forest totaling 3,500 acres.

In addition to fencing and weed control, the plan calls for developing and maintaining access roads for recreation, hunting, gathering, and other appropriate purposes, Fox said.

These other uses — hunting, in particular – were the reasons why only a fraction of the reserve will be fenced, and this disturbed biologist and Big Island resident Rick Warshauer.

“None of the three management options presented (each is only 20 percent of the Ka`u FR total area) is anywhere close to what is needed to protect the most important array of biological resources on the island. The large scale option (fence and remove ungulates from all of Ka`u FR) was ‘Dismissed from Further Consideration’. This was following a string of rational reasons within the same paragraph why the large-scale option should be done. The stated reasons for dismissal were concerns over adverse effects on hunting opportunities and cost,” Warshauer wrote in his comments on the plan’s environmental assessment, prepared by Ron Terry of Geometrician Associates. (Terry serves on the board of directors for Environment Hawai`i, Inc..)

Warshauer called the preferred management option, which would require fencing off the middle-upper half of the reserve from ungulates, a “smart step in the right direction, unless it is the only step, which it appears to be.”

The Ka`u FR is a proposed reintroduction site for the endangered `alala (Hawaiian crow), which is extinct in the wild. Warshauer argued that more than 12,000 protected acres are needed to support a wild population of `alala, which at times travels to low elevations.

“To expect the `alala to remain within the 12,000 acre safe zone is unrealistic, and having the surrounding forest reserve prioritized for non-protective uses is unfortunate for the birds,” he wrote.

“[T]o restrict protective management, fencing and clearing of ungulates, to 12,000 acres is in effect to fragment the forest as it moves into the future, and to lose a great deal of these resources as a consequence,” he wrote.

At the September meeting, Big Island Land Board member Robert Pacheco asked Fox what he thought DOFAW could do to minimize the deterioration of the Ka`u forest “so we don’t end up with [just] one 12,000-acre piece that’s good.”

Fox said only that the state needs to follow Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s “The Rain Follows the Forest” plan to manage core forest areas well and promote game management in appropriate areas.

“I apologize if this is a bit of a dodge,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say fence 12,000 today and another 40,000 in [so many] years. I’m not qualified to say that.”

The proposed plan was an important step in the right direction and should any more fencing be proposed for the area, it must go through rigorous public review, he said.

During scoping meetings for the plan, local hunters vociferously argued against fencing off even 12,000 acres. None testified against the plan at the Land Board’s meeting in Honolulu.

Addressing DOFAW’s approach to hunting in general, Ziegler argued that some of the agency’s proposed rules “are just not aligned [with] what you are trying to accomplish in these sensitive native areas.” In written testimony, Ziegler specifically mentioned DOFAW’s bag limits, which she felt should be removed for all game species.

She also encouraged more fencing. CCH supports responsible hunting and responsible game management, she told the board, but “letting animals run where they want to run is not responsible game management.”

Acting DOFAW administrator Roger Imoto told the board that his agency already has more than half a million dollars to implement the plan.

“It’s a plan that’s not just going to sit up on a shelf,” he said. “We are actively getting rid of cattle in the area, getting access for hunters into the area, and working with private landowners.”

The Land Board ultimately approved the plan and accepted the finding of no significant impact of its EA.

“”This is exciting. I support the recommendation wholeheartedly and am looking forward to a new year for the Ka’u forest,” Pacheco said.

* * *

Board Approves Management Plan For `Ahihi-Kina`u Reserve

The majority of the `Ahihi-Kina`u Natural Area Reserve has been closed since August 2008 and will remain so until at least August 2014. But if it ever opens again, management will be far stricter than it was in the days when some 250,000 visitors a year overran the place, using anchialine pools as toilets and crushing fragile corals underfoot.

The Land Board initially closed the reserve to protect the natural and cultural resources there from throngs of visitors and to prevent those crossing the remote, treacherous lava field to reach popular swimming coves from getting hurt. The reserve has remained closed because unexploded ordnance left by the U.S. Navy has been found and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still evaluating the area.

In the meantime, the `Ahihi-Kina`u NAR/Keone`o`io Advisory Group — a group of community members created by the Department of Land and Natural Resources — developed a management plan with help from DLNR staff, local and federal government officials, The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i, and others.

On October 11, the Land Board approved the plan, which aims to build management capacity, manage human uses, control biological threats, and prevent land-based impacts.

Under the plan, the portion of the NAR that is currently closed will be accessible only under a special use permit or via a staff-led educational hike or service project. The ocean portion of the reserve would be closed at night and motorized vessels and anchoring would be prohibited at all times.

The plan also recommends establishing a parking or other user fee to fund the reserve’s management. Without a fee, DOFAW will not be able to fund even the most basic management tasks and would fall hundreds of thousands of dollars short of what would be required to fully implement the plan.

The most important goal of the plan, to hire a new reserve manager, has already been achieved. DOFAW has recently hired David Quisenberry for the job. Quisenberry told the Land Board that a new volunteer coordinator has also been hired and that they are recruiting new volunteers and developing an interpretive program in accordance with the plan.

DOFAW is still awaiting a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on an ordnance survey conducted in the reserve last year. The report is expected to include recommendations to minimize the impacts of unexploded ordnance.

* * *

DLNR Acquires Land For Honolulu Reserve

The Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve is about to get a little larger.

On September 28, the Land Board voted to exchange its interest in four parcels in Niu Valley for the fee simple interest in one of them, which will be added to the forest reserve after the DLNR holds public hearings.

The 263-acre parcel has been valued at $710,000, which is more than ten times the appraised value of the state’s interest in the four parcels.

Until the board’s decision, the Hawaiian Humane Society held a 52 percent interest in the parcels, the deeds for which required the organization to operate a public education preserve on the land “for flora and fauna.” Otherwise, the land would go to the state for use as a park.

“This deed provision constitutes the state of Hawai`i’s springing executory interest,” states a DLNR Land Division report to the board.

The property had been in the Lucas family for several generations, according to Laura Thompson, whose mother, Elisabeth Lucas, sold her interest in the parcels to the Hawai`i Humane Society more than 20 years ago.

“This is family property. … My father and mother wanted to keep it the way it is,” Thompson told the board. “Thank you for considering this.”

* * *

Wespac May Grant Aquatics Division $450,000

The DLNR”s Division of Aquatic Resources may be getting a windfall to improve its online reporting system for fishermen and fish dealers if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration approves a $1.8 million grant application from the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac).

The application, submitted in August, seeks to add a new data coordinator position for Wespac and lists nine projects aimed at improving data collection for nearshore fisheries.

At $457,000, developing, implementing and maintaining online reporting forms for fishermen and fish dealers is the priciest of the proposed projects.

On September 28, the Land Board unanimously approved a recommendation by the division to accept grant funding from Wespac should it become available.

Teresa Dawson

Volume 23, Number 5 — November 2012

environment hawaii board land natural resources ka’u forest reserve hunting ‘ahihi-kina’u natural area reserve honolulu forest reserve western pacific fishery management council kaluanui natural area reserve marjorie ziegler mark fox rick warshauer robert pacheco

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