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2 county sites could receive $2.7 million for land purchases

Panel favors grants for Mapulehu and Makaalae lands

Two Maui County land purchases — in East Molokai and East Maui — are on the Legacy Land Conservation Commission’s list of five properties statewide recommended for grants totaling $6.4 million from a special fund for the current and next fiscal years.

About $2.7 million will go to the two Maui County land purchases at Mapulehu on Molokai and Makaalae in East Maui. The recommendations require the approval of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources and the governor, a Department of Land and Natural Resources news release said Wednesday.

The Mapulehu application by the Molokai Land Trust includes two parcels totaling 1,816 acres in an ahupuaa, running from near the ocean to the summit of mountains in East Molokai, the news release said.

The lower parcel holds the platform of Iliiliopae Heiau, a training area for kahuna and a sacrificial heiau. It supported taro cultivation in loi along Mapulehu Stream and its tributaries.

The upper property is largely watershed, disturbed and degraded by the introduction of cattle and other invasive species. The lower part likely was used by Native Hawaiians for agricultural use and the rest of the site for hunting and gathering of materials for daily and cultural use, the news release said.

The Legacy Land Conservation Commission grant recommendation is for up to $1.1 million for the current fiscal year for partial funding of the purchase, the news release said. The total price is about $3.7 million with matching funds of $2.6 million from other sources, DLNR said.

The land owner is the Ilima Molokai Limited Partnership, a willing seller, the land trust said. There also is a conservation easement on the property held by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

The Mapulehu grant is the second highest priority for the current fiscal year. The purchase may receive additional money as it becomes available, DLNR said.

The Makaalae grant is for four parcels covering 30 acres, which are part of a larger 18-parcel, 150-acre site eyed for purchase. The land includes a conservation easement held by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. The land is a prime camping, fishing and gathering spot for local residents and holds cultural, historical and natural resource value, the news release said.

HRP Hana LLC is the owner of the land and a willing seller, according to applicant Ke Ao Hali’i, a nonprofit group whose goal is to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of Hana.

The commission has recommended a grant of $1.6 million for next fiscal year as its highest priority. The amount will fund the full purchase. As money becomes available, the group could receive some funds this fiscal year, the news release said.

The commission recommended 13 properties for funding, totaling $15 million, but the current budget of $6.4 million will fund only five of the top-ranked properties in the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years.

The other eight properties the commission hopes to fund include three on Maui — an additional 32-plus acres of coastal land at Hana; 11,000 acres of West Maui watershed lands; and coastal access at Keoneo’io Bay and protection for anchialine pools at Nanualele in South Maui.

Despite land use regulations, sites that hold important resource values are often unprotected, inaccessible and threatened with damage and destruction, the news release said. The state Legislature established the Land Conservation Fund in 2005 to provide permanent funding for land conservation.

The funding source is the real estate conveyance tax.

The grant application and approval process includes consultation with the state departments of Land and Natural Resources and Agriculture and the Agribusiness Development Corp. The selection process also requires field visits and public meetings with the Legacy Land Conservation Commission, consultation with the president of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House and an environmental review before submittal to the BLNR and the governor, the news release said.

The application process for grants for fiscal year 2022 (July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) is scheduled to begin in January.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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