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‘Ilio Point Propopsed as Natural Area Reserve

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   September 24th, 2009 · No Disqus Comments · Featured, Maui News

The state is proposing the designation of 261 acres of land at Ilio Point on Molokai as a Natural Area Reserve.  The recommendation is meant to provide increased protection and heightened management for 23 native plants species, and rare species of seabirds and marine mammals.

Graphic by Wendy Osher.

Graphic by Wendy Osher.

The state is also requesting similar designation for 5,975 acres of land at Kahaualea on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Both requests will be heard Friday morning, September 25, 2009 before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Designation of the Ilio Point location is meant to protect and help restore a coastal ecosystem that is part of a larger wilderness area.  The area also contains significant geological features of lithified sand dunes, sea cliffs, and subfossil bird bones and land snails.  Evidence of previous bird inhabitation, as well as observations of nesting attempts suggests that ‘Ilio could be a significant nesting ground.  Habitat restoration in the nearby Moomomi Preserve, has encouraged nesting of wedge-tailed shearwaters.  The endangered Hawaiian monk seal also has been seen resting at ‘Ilio Point.

Priority threats to these resources are ungulates such as Axis Deer, non-native plants, especially Kiawe, and small predatory mammals.  Complicating restoration attempts is the presence of unexploded ordnance and degrading buildings from past military use.  Last year, the land surrounding ‘Ilio point was leased from Molokai Ranch by the Molokai Land Trust.

Evidence of human use of the long, windswept coastline of northwestern Molokai dates back to 1200 AD.  Fishing shrines, heiau, burials, and basalt quarries are the main archaeological sites found on the north and west coasts, including a koa found at the tip of ‘Ilio Point.

Throughout human occupation, Ilio Point remained an important fishing area, but did not escape modification and development.  The U.S. Navy acquired the site in 1940 from a private landowner for use as an aerial bombing and strafing range.  In December 1949, the U.S. Navy transferred ownership of the 261 acre parcel to the US Coast Guard for use as a Loran Station.  While the area was once again studied as a possible Marine Corps base in 1996, not much activity has since occurred, besides repairs to a fence that is meant to keep people from accessing contaminated areas.

The draft version of the proposal was unanimously approved by the Natural Area Reserve Commission on August 25, 2009.

The Natural Area Reserve System currently consists of 19 reserves on five islands, covering more than 109,000 acres.  The designated areas provide the last remaining habitat for many endangered species as well as protection of core watershed areas.

State law requires the Department to conduct one or more public hearings prior to the designation of State lands under the jurisdiction of the Department into the Natural Area Reserves System.  After the public hearing is conducted, the Division will return to the Board for a final decision on the proposed designation.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Excerpts taken from DLNR Submittal Requesting Public Hearings for 9/25/09 Land Board Meeting)

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