Greenprinting offers solution to protecting, managing lands

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

At its meeting of July 31, the County Council’s Parks, Recreation, Energy and Legal Affairs Committee, which I chair, recommended passage of a proposed bill to establish a new chapter in the Maui County Code to guide decision-making for purchasing or acquiring open space and preservation lands, and establish procedures for long-term conservation planning and management.

To date, the county’s open space land acquisitions are generally reactive to current events, public outcry, or the willingness of the council or mayor. Currently, there is very little strategy to determine the best use of the open space fund.

The proposal proactively creates a plan to utilize the fund using a greenprint, a widely used planning tool for identifying potential conservation lands.

Generally, a greenprint assembles and layers land data characteristics that are transposed onto maps to reveal how resources such as water availability, carbon sequestration, wildlife connectivity and animal movement corridors are distributed in a certain area. Greenprints incorporate public outreach, general plans and community resources to create a comprehensive conservation vision.

The county and other entities like conservation organizations, land use planners, farmers and ranchers, community members, developers and funders can use the greenprint as a tool to guide well-informed planning and coordination of future development.

The proposed bill also establishes a committee of community members, conservation organizations, county department administrative heads and one member of the County Council. The committee will be tasked with issuing a conceptual greenprint and will also be tasked with the important job of developing plans for management and maintenance of acquired lands.

Overall, the open space fund is often regarded by many land conservationists as an extremely useful and proactive tool for preserving the natural beauty of Maui County. To date, the open space fund has been used to acquire dozens of properties for the purposes of protecting and preserving lands that are valuable to the community.

The fund was established in 2002 through a Maui County Charter amendment proposed by the county’s Charter Commission. The Charter Commission’s intent was to require the county to consider acquiring lands that are valuable to the public and visitors as parks, recreation areas, open space, view corridors, natural resources and wildlife habitats, including beaches, coastal areas, forests, watersheds and cultural and historic sites. The charter mandates at least 1 percent of the annual real property tax revenue be deposited into the fund.

Recently, the fund was used to acquire land adjacent to Peahi, also known as “Jaws,” on the Hamakualoa coastline because it represented a great source of cultural, recreational and historical value to the community. When the land was up for sale, community members rallied to protect it as a resource, and I recommended using the open space fund to purchase and preserve the land for the public in perpetuity.

Additionally, one of the most pressing challenges of this century, and for Maui County, is the impact climate change will have on local landscapes and natural resources. Establishing a greenprint and enhanced land management plans are crucial steps to assuring Maui’s beauty and nature is preserved for future generations.

* Don Guzman is chair of the council’s Parks, Recreation, Energy and Legal Affairs Committee. He holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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