Site Conditions, Budget Restraints Cause Koa Restoration to Fall Short
“There are a lot of unknowns about restoring native forests that have been disturbed like this, that have been logged,” Division of Forestry and Wildlife administrator Paul Conry told the Board of Land and Natural Resources last month.
In the future, he continued, the Land Board should have more information on the site-specific needs for restoration before it decides on whether to allow logging in a Conservation District area. Standard restoration techniques that may work in agricultural settings may not work on Conservation District lands, he said.
The state has found out the hard way that, when it comes to forest restoration, what works in one situation may not work in another. Conry’s comments, made during a September 8 briefing of the Land Board, were in response to the lackluster restoration results achieved by Koa Timber and Forest Preservation LLC, which in 2003 logged some 135 koa trees and constructed at least 7,000 feet of road in the Conservation District of South Hilo without a Conservation District Use Permit from the Land Board.
In January 2004, the Land Board fined Koa Timber and Forest Preservation $141,000 for Conservation District violations stemming from the logging activity and ordered the companies to submit a remediation plan, restore all road cuts and, and revegetate the land, “with the intent of restoring the land back to its original condition,” the board’s meeting minutes state.
At the January board meeting, Koa Timber’s attorney Danton Wong, worried about the potentially high cost of restoration, asked that those costs be deducted from the proposed fine. Based, in part, on comments by Division of Forestry and Wildlife forester Michael Constantinides that restoration would probably not exceed $20,000, the Land Board denied Wong’s request.
In May 2004, Koa Timber submitted a restoration plan to the Land Board that called for restoring six of the 13 most heavily impacted acres in the logged area, and replanting them with 200 koa seedlings per acre over three years. The Land Board approved the plan and capped spending at $20,000.
At the September briefing, Department of Land and Natural Resources staff reported that the restoration effort had fallen well short of its goals. According to a report by DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands planner Dawn Hegger, Koa Timber conducted revegetation activities on only 3.9 acres and was able to achieve an average of only 74 new koa seedlings per acre, 37 percent of its goal.
“One of the mitigating factors is, when the board approved the restoration plan, the board stipulated that Koa Timber could spend only $20,000 on the area to be restored,” OCCL administrator Sam Lemmo told the Land Board.
While the Land Board has the option of fining Koa Timber $2,000 a day until the land is restored to the chair’s satisfaction, Conry told the board that a fine was not warranted.
The state had given its best estimate of what would be needed to restore the site and Koa Timber generally performed according to plan, he said.
“We think now that the follow-up question is: Is there is something impeding seedling regeneration at the site?” he said.
In response to at-large Land Board member Sam Gon’s question about what the limiting factors to koa regeneration might be, Constantinides said that because the restoration site is one of the wettest areas on the Big Island, with standing pools of water in many locations, soil moisture is a likely factor. A possible fungus or pathogen in the soil may also be limiting survival, he said, and “of course, there is weed and pig pressure.”
“This is a good case to demonstrate that what may simply work and cheaply work in one location is not going to deliver the same result in different locations,” Conry said.
Despite the fact that Koa Timber failed to meet its restoration goals, DOFAW and OCCL staff told the Land Board they were satisfied that the violation case was resolved. Because the matter was heard at a briefing, the board did not make any vote to close the file.
Sand Island Park Targeted For State’s Second OHV Park
“Kaua`i is very jealous,” said Kaua`i Land Board member Ron Agor of the recent proposal to issue a two-year lease to the Sand Island Off Highway Vehicle Association for a portion of Sand Island State Park along the south coast of O`ahu.
While it’s legal to buy off-road vehicles – which include four-wheel drive trucks, quads, and dirt bikes – there are few places where off-roading is legal. On the North Shore of O`ahu, there is the 400-acre Kahuku Motocross Park, which is owned by the state and leased by the military. (Park operator Hawai`i Motorsports has a revocable permit with the state to operate on weekends and holidays.) In 2004, the state began working with a Big Island OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) club to allow off-road vehicles on nearly 30 miles of logging roads in the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve on the Big Island. This summer, the state opened those roads to OHVs.
Although these areas are used by off-road enthusiasts, illegal off-roading is still a troublesome enforcement issue for the state, which has been struggling to control problems associated with that use while off-roading has been increasing nationwide and in Hawai`i.
In addition to noise and public safety issues, “there are issues associated with trespass on private land and unauthorized use on land under DLNR jurisdiction. Frequent use on land not managed for this activity can result in severe erosion and related resource management issues,” states a September 8 report by DOFAW’s Paul Conry.
On O`ahu, the state has been particularly concerned with the off-roading at Ka`ena Point, which includes a state park and a Natural Area Reserve.
As an alternative to Ka`ena Point, a non-profit group of OHV riders, known as the Sand Island OHV Association, proposed last year that the state create a riding area on some 30 acres within the Sand Island State Park.
Because the area is located near a sewage treatment plant and an industrial area and is directly under the flight path of the Honolulu International Airport, the staff of Na Ala Hele, DOFAW’s trail managers, “agreed that both environmentally and socially this area would be well suited for OHV use,” Conry’s report states. So on September 8, DOFAW requested that the Land Board approve in concept issuance of a two-year lease to the Sand Island OHV Association for a 30-acre portion of Sand Island State Park. The board unanimously approved DOFAW’s request.
Conry told the board that the project is intended to take pressure off Ka`ena Point, private, and other state lands. In addition to the lease, he asked that the board approve a right of entry to allow the Sand Island OHV Association to conduct any studies necessary for its environmental assessment, a draft of which was expected to be completed last month.
The O`ahu group of the Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club submitted testimony supporting the concept of the off-road vehicle park.
In a September 8 letter to board chair Peter Young, O`ahu group chair Randy Ching wrote, “While off-road, all-terrain vehicles are noisy, polluting, and can exacerbate runoff, we recognize that they are popular and will be used for the foreseeable future. Therefore, providing a dedicated location for the activity in a controlled, environmentally safe location should take pressure off protected natural areas where off-road activity may currently be occurring.”
He added, “If state land is to be used to provide a recreational track for off-road users, however, the Sierra Club urges the Department to aggressively enforce illegal or inappropriate off-road uses elsewhere on O`ahu, such as at Ka`ena Point. Our support for this project stems for the desire to supplant, not augment, existing uses of all-terrain vehicles.”
Land Board member Gon asked whether a private OHV group running a portion of a state park was a precedent-setting arrangement.
“It is,” Na Ala Hele coordinator Curt Cottrell said, adding that the DLNR is required to spend a percentage of funds received from the Federal Recreational Trail Program on motorized recreation. He also noted that there haven’t been any problems with the new riding area at the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve.
Hawai`i Island Land Board member Rob Pacheco suggested that the island needs another designated riding area because off-roaders are “tearing up some places.”
Land Board chair Peter Young agreed. “You can’t just say, ‘You can’t go here.’ You need to say, ‘Here’s where you go,’” he said.
Another Baseyard on Waimanalo Ag Land
For the second time this year, the Land Board is dealing with an agricultural property in Waimanalo being used illegally as a baseyard for a landscape company. In July, the Land Board revoked a lease held by All Tree Services, Inc., a landscaping company that had violated its agricultural lease by using its Waimanalo property as a baseyard, and whose large equipment trucks running on and off the property stirred the ire of neighboring farmers, some of whom had bid on the property and lost to All Tree.
The contentious matter dragged on for months, with the Land Board allowing All Tree more and more time to cure its violations, while Waimanalo farmers tried to convince the board to kick the company out. In July, the farmers won.
At its September 8 meeting, the Land Board contemplated canceling a lease owned by Hemaloto and Leona Alatini for nearly 10 acres of prime agricultural land in Waimanalo.
On April 4, responding to a complaint, the DLNR’s Land Division inspected the property and found 12 landscape trucks and pieces of equipment labeled Nilasoni Landscape, Inc., on the property. The lot was also littered with landscape waste and concrete rubble, and was being used to raise swine, which is prohibited under the lease.
On April 28, the Land Division issued a Notice of Violation to the Alatinis, which gave them 90 days to bring their property into compliance with the lease, which requires that the property be used for diversified agriculture.
Although Mrs. Alatini met with the Land Division in June to discuss the violations, the Alatini family waited until one day before the Land Board’s September 8 meeting to start clearing the property. By that time, the Land Division had submitted its recommendation to the Land Board to cancel the lease, an action supported by Waimanalo farmers, according to a Land Division agent.
At the meeting, attorney John Carroll, representing the Alatinis, asked for 45 days to bring the property into compliance. Land Division staff supported giving the Alatinis additional time to finish cleaning the property. But to avoid the endless deferrals and extensions that plagued the All Tree case, the Land Board voted instead to cancel the lease, unless the Alatinis submitted an agriculture plan by October 2 and completed cleaning the property by October 13.
While some 20 percent of the property is planted with crops, they have never been sold and are used mostly for home consumption. Although Mrs. Alatini had projected that a farm there could generate between $17,300 and $32,130 a year over the next five years, Board chair Young suggested after the vote that she be more ambitious with her farm plan, since 10 acres of prime ag land can generate a lot more than that.
“We want real farmers in Waimanalo,” he said.
South Kona Subdivision Would Increase Density
Conservation District rules allow the consolidation and subdivision of lots so long as it does not result in an increase in density. The rules also prohibit the building of single family residences on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet.
The Killian Family Trust, which owns four small Conservation District lots in South Kona, each less than 10,000 square feet, wants to consolidate those lots and subdivide it to make three larger ones. While this would decrease the number of lots they own, it would increase the number of houses allowed on their properties from zero to three.
“It’s almost like an increase in density,” Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands administrator Sam Lemmo told the Land Board at its August 25 meeting. But in looking at the bigger picture, Lemmo said, the surrounding area has already been developed.
While the Killians could apply for a rule amendment to allow homes on their existing lots, Lemmo recommended that the Land Board approve the trust’s request to consolidate and subdivide its lots, since the trust would still need to apply for a Conservation District Use Permit before building any houses. The Land Board unanimously approved the request.
— Teresa Dawson
Volume 17, Number 4 October 2006