3,721 Acres at Waikamoi Added to Natural Area Partnership

October 13, 2014, 1:09 PM HST · Updated October 13, 1:16 PM
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The endangered ʻākohekohe (crested honey creeper). Photo by Eric Nishibayashi, courtesy DLNR.

The endangered ʻākohekohe (crested honey creeper). Photo by Eric Nishibayashi, courtesy DLNR.

By Maui Now Staff

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources today announced the addition of 3,721 acres at Waikamoi to be included in the state’s Natural Area Partnership Program.

Agency officials say the extension of The Nature Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve into the program will help to protect Maui’s native forests and water resources.

The added acreage consists of undeveloped rain forest resting between the 3,600 and 9,500 foot elevation.

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Department officials say the native ʻōhiʻa forest within the area contains 20 threatened or endangered plant and animal species, including the endemic ʻākohekohe (crested honeycreeper, Palmeria dolei) and kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill, Pseudonestor xanthophrys).

The two birds are considered among the rarest in the United States with populations estimated at 3,700 for the ʻākohekohe and about 500 for the kiwikiu.

Maui parrotbill (kiwikiu). Photo by Mike Neal, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Maui parrotbill (kiwikiu). Photo by Mike Neal, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“The ʻākohekohe and kiwikiu were once abundant and found on Maui and Molokaʻi,” said Mark White, The Nature Conservancy’s Maui program director.

“Today, encroaching invasive plants and animals have shrunk their populations to small sections of Haleakalā.”  White said funding from the Natural Area Partnership Program is important for the protection of their habitat and preventing them from going extinct.

Under the partnership program, the state provides funds on a two-for-one basis with private funds to protect the privately owned East Maui forest preserve.

EMI Parcel. Photo by Bob Bangerter, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

EMI Parcel. Photo by Bob Bangerter, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Suzanne Case, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaiʻi said the supporting funds will enable the agency to “further protect Maui native forests and help ensure the island’s future water supply.”

DLNR Chair William Aila Jr. also commented in a joint agency press release saying the protection of priority watershed areas is a critical concern of the state due to a changing climate that is threatening the water supply.

“The water need for drinking and agriculture comes directly from mauka forests like the Waikamoi Preserve. Protecting these forests is the most cost-effective and efficient way to replenish groundwater,” said Aila. “Forests absorb mist and fog, and can increase water capture up to 50% more than rainfall alone. Yet half of Hawaiʻi’s native forests have already been lost.”

Nohoanu. Photo by Pat Bily, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Nohoanu. Photo by Pat Bily, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The permanent conservation easement of 3,721 acres adjacent to the existing Waikamoi Preserve was granted by landowner East Maui Irrigation Company in April to The Nature Conservancy, giving the agency management control of the land.

State officials say the two parcels together form the state’s largest privately owned natural preserve of nearly 9,000 acres.

EMI president Garret Hew said the company has worked on removing invasive weeds and planting trees in the watershed to increase water absorption and decrease erosion.

EMI Parcel. Photo by John De Mello, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

EMI Parcel. Photo by John De Mello, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“We are confident that, with The Nature Conservancy’s expertise and the state’s funding support, current threats on the watershed will be effectively managed and the protection of this important natural resource will be significantly enhanced,” said Hew.

The Natural Area Partnership Program was established in 1991 to help protect native ecosystems, and is part of the East Maui Watershed Partnership that was formed to ensure water security for the people of Maui.

There is currently more than 30,000 acres statewide that are enrolled in the Natural Area Partnership Program.

Pua maka nui, photo by Pat Bily, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Pua maka nui, photo by Pat Bily, courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

State officials say the US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Program, through the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, funded up to 75% of the original $190,000 acquisition costs of the East Maui Irrigation Co. parcel.  A&B provided The Nature Conservancy the easement at a discounted price of $142,500, donating the required 25% in matching private funds, or $47,500 worth of value, state officials said.

According to DLNR, Waikamoi Preserve was established in 1983 when Haleakalā Ranch Company granted The Nature Conservancy a conservation easement over the original 5,230-acres.

“Haleakalā Ranch has a long history of supporting exemplary stewardship at Waikamoi Preserve. This newest Natural Area Partnership Program addition will allow all of us to do a better job of addressing the threats to our native forest and watershed on East Maui,” said Ranch Vice President J. Scott Meidell in the announcement.

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