Drought conditions force closure of Mauna Kea forest reserve
The Department of Land and Natural Resources will close portions of the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and the Kaohe Game Management Area on the Big Island of Hawaii for three months, due to extreme fire danger as a result of drought conditions. The closure begins Friday, June 4, 2010 and lasts until August 31, 2010.
No public access will be allowed during this period or until sufficient rainfall reduces the fire risk in the area. Public activities will be affected by the closure. This includes game mammal and bird hunting, hiking, bird watching, commercial activities and off road vehicle (ATV, dirt bike, etc) use. However, public use of the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area remains unchanged.
The closure may be lifted earlier if rainfall conditions allow; or, it may have to be extended if drought persists. January to April 2010 rainfall accumulation in the area was only around 20% of normal. The National Weather Service recently announced that the October 2009 to April 2010 Hawaiian Islands wet season was the driest in the past 30 years.
DLNR officials say the western slopes of Mauna Kea received little rainfall over the past year and vegetation is drier than usual. The closed area includes portions of the forest reserve, below 10,000 feet elevation, between Waikahalulu Gulch, south to the gate 1.1 miles past Kemole, all of the Kaohe Game Management Area, and all roads in the Ahumoa and Skyline area.
“The closure is necessary to protect sensitive and important natural resources in the area. Protection of our watersheds is the most important job we have at the Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Protecting the habitats of rare plants and animals is also critical. Although we recognize the inconvenience this closure may cause the public, it is an action we cannot avoid,” said Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife District Manager Roger Imoto.