Helemano Wilderness Area Bought for Conservation
The Trust for Public Land and the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), recently bought 2,882 acres of the Central Oʻahu forest and fallow lands from Dole Food Company. According to the DLNR, this purchase will provide Oʻahu residents new outdoor recreational opportunities, while protecting Central O‘ahu’s aquifer and improving habitat for native species, many of which are endangered.
“These areas of Helemano and upper Wahiawā, sitting at the foothills of the Koʻolau mountains, combine native forest, watersheds, and good soils in an accessible central location to create an ideal setting to support our communities’ physical and spiritual sustenance,” Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources Suzanne Case said. “We are excited to add these lands to the public trust inventory managed by the department for the people of Hawai‘i.”
DOFAW is aiming to work with the community to create a multi-resource management plan that offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities and guides forest restoration, water source protection, and habitat improvements for native species. The new effort, called the Helemano Wilderness Project, will provide substantial community benefits, the DLNR said.
For more than a century, access to the public hunting area at the Poamoho Forest Reserve and the entrance to the historic Poamoho trail has been on private land. Through this purchase, DOFAW secured public access to this property and hopes to work with interested stakeholders and groups to provide access in a more comprehensive way than was previously possible. DOFAW will also explore opportunities for ADA-accessible camping areas, places to picnic, gathering sites, hunting, and recreation.
In addition, DOFAW plans to improve habitat for native species by controlling invasive plants and predators in the mountainous parts of the property. DOFAW also plans on reforesting other areas with native species, high value forest products, and edible forest plants. DOFAW will partner with Hawaiʻi’s hunting community to reduce damage to native resources in select areas, while improving hunting opportunities in other areas. The DLNR said this management approach will recharge the Central Oʻahu aquifers fed by the Helemano, Poamoho, and North Fork Kaukonahua streams, securing clean drinking water for generations to come.
DOFAW also plans on helping the endangered ʻŌpeʻapeʻa, or Hawaiian Hoary Bat, which is the official state land mammal. Permanently protecting this property will preserve a quality bat habitat, while reforestation efforts will give these bats more feeding and roosting opportunities. These efforts may also improve habitat for endangered birds, insects, and plants living in the native forested areas.
“The Trust for Public Land thanks Dole Food Company, its Chairman David Murdock, and his Hawaiʻi team Harry Saunders and Dan Nellis, for working with us and the State through many hurdles to see that this land is conserved for the public,” Hawaiian Islands State Director Lea Hong said. “We would also like to extend very special thanks to Andres Albano of CBRE, Dole Food Company’s broker, for facilitating the transaction. Andy is originally from Whitmore, and his dedication and hard work contributed greatly to saving this land around his and my own hometown for future generations.”
The $15,163,800 purchase was made through a partnership between the following federal, state and private partners:
- USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program ($5 million)
- Navy Region Hawaiʻi Encroachment Partnering Program ($3.5 million)
- Kawailoa Wind, LLC ($2.75 million)
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Planning Acquisition ($2 million)
- State of Hawai‘i Legacy Land Conservation Program ($1,513,800)
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pittman-Robertson Fund ($400,000)