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State proposes to add 8,100 acres to forest system

The Maui News

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is proposing to add 8,100 acres to the Forest Reserve System, including 3,433 acres on the north slopes of Haleakala and 733 acres on Molokai.

The Forest Reserve System, which is managed by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, represents the state’s largest public forest lands, offering benefits that include watershed restoration, native habitat management, recreation and hunting.

State officials are looking to add four tracts of land totaling roughly 8,100 acres while withdrawing 2.7 acres, according to a news release Wednesday. The proposed additions include:

• 3,716 acres in the back of Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore acquired by the state in 2019 from the Dole corporation to add to the Pupukea-Paumalu Forest Reserve. The property contains high priority watersheds and native ecosystems that provide habitat for endangered wildlife and plants.

• 3,433 acres on the north slopes of Haleakala in the ahupua’a of Kamehamenui that the state acquired in 2020 to add to the Forest Reserve System. Kamehamenui is located between Kula Forest Reserve and Haleakala National Park, and its protection is critical to achieve the overarching goal to restore the “mauna lei,” the band of forest that once encompassed Haleakala, the news release said. Restoring this contiguous lei of habitat around the mountain will ensure biological connectivity and restore ecological services. The parcel will also provide access from Kekaulike Avenue to this popular recreational area.

• 733 acres in southeast Molokai in the ahupua’a of Pua’ahala that were acquired in 2020 to add to the island’s forest reserve and contain some of the most pristine forests remaining in the area, the news release said. The acquisition was important for completing the Paku’i watershed protection project, part of a larger effort with community support to fence and protect vital watersheds on Molokai. The area will also be valuable for creating fuel breaks and mitigating the risks of wildfires in the surrounding areas.

• 216 acres of state land in Upper Waiakea on Hawaii island. In the early 1990s, DOFAW assumed management of the area, which was thought to have been part of the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve but had actually been excluded from 1923 governor’s proclamation that set the reserve’s current boundary. DOFAW is proposing to add the land to the reserve to formalize its jurisdiction of the area.

The only proposed withdrawal of land is about 2.75 acres from the Lihu’e-Koloa Forest Reserve to be set aside for the County of Kauai Department of Water to repair, upgrade or replace its aging water system equipment.

DOFAW will hold a virtual hearing at 6 p.m. April 28 to receive testimony on the proposed changes.

To provide oral testimony, contact Andy Cullison at james.a.cullison@hawaii.gov at least 24 hours before the hearing to receive a Zoom link. Those requiring auxiliary aids, such as taped materials or a sign language interpreter, should request assistance 10 working days prior to the date of the hearing by calling (808) 436-8122.

Written testimony must be received by May 6 and can be mailed to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Attn: Forestry Program Manager, 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 325, Honolulu, HI 96813 or emailed to james.a.cullison@hawaii.gov.

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