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Five land parcels on Moloka’i purchased for conservation and restoration

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Land in the ahupua‘a of Mākolelau on Moloka’i was purchased for conservation and restoration. Screen shot: DLNR

In an effort to protect native forests, watersheds and reefs in southeast Moloka‘i, five parcels of land in the ahupua‘a of Mākolelau were purchased for conservation and restoration by a federal, state and private partnership.

The Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources made the purchase with a $1.8 million grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service through the Endangered Species Act and more than $600,000 in private donations to The Nature Conservancy.

Mākolelau is part of a contiguous watershed, designated by the State Commission on Water Resource Management as a priority 1 watershed, contributing to the Moloka’i Sole Source Aquifer.

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The ahupua‘a’s higher elevations contain intact native forests that are proven to be superior to habitats dominated by non-native species at generating fresh water supplies and reducing erosion that can damage coral reefs.

The fisheries supported by Moloka’i reefs are an important food source for island residents. Summit-to-sea planning and management will help protect the state’s longest fringing reef from silt buildup and storm run-off due to heavy rain events, supporting habitat and marine life. Through conservation management efforts, the state estimates up to four metric tons of soil will be stopped from entering the ocean and washing down current each year.

Proposed restoration actions include controlling feral hoofed animal populations, removing invasive plant species, restoring native ecosystems, and building and maintaining a network of firebreaks vital to preventing the spread of wildfires.

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“We are thrilled to be part of this effort that recognizes the forest as critical watershed for the island and home to species found only in Hawai‘i,” said Ulalia Woodside Lee, executive director of The Nature Conservancy Hawai’i and Palmyra.

The Mākolelau ahupua‘a parcels will now link to other conservation lands from east to west and from the summit of Moloka‘i to the sea, providing continuous corridors for endangered forest and sea birds, ‘ōpe‘ape‘a, more than 50 native plant species (38 endangered), and ‘o‘opu and invertebrates following streams from sea level to head waters. The parcels are part of the East Moloka‘i Watershed Partnership, in which contiguous private landowners are working on conservation projects.

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