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THE NATION

Kona Forest Joins Federal Protected Land List

August 22, 2003|From Associated Press

HONOLULU — An 1,800-acre property in South Kona on the Big Island has become the first forest in Hawaii to be protected under a conservation project that purchases easements from landowners to restrict development, conservation officials say.

The Nature Conservancy purchased the native koa and ohia forest at Kapua two years ago from a private landowner with the intention of helping the U.S. Forest Service gain control of the land under the national Forest Legacy project.

The Forest Service recently paid the Nature Conservancy $1.06 million for the easements, a little more than the nonprofit conservation organization paid for the land.

The Nature Conservancy retains ownership of the land, which is south of Kealakekua and east of Milolii.

Kim Hum, director of land protection for the Nature Conservancy in Hawaii, said that the Nature Conservancy did not profit from the easement sale because the organization has spent about $125,000 on ground management, fencing, weed control and other conservation measures.

"We own the fee, and the Forest Service owns an easement that restricts development and grazing and how the property could be logged if we logged it," she said. "But it's not our intent to log it."

The Forest Service project is designed to protect important forest lands from being converted to nonforest uses, said Sandy Stone, landowner assistance program manager at the agency's Vallejo, Calif., office.

"The very bottom line for our Forest Legacy conservation is to restrict development and subdivisions," she said.

State officials had identified the 1,800 acres in South Kona as one of three Big Island forests for the project. One other is also in South Kona, at Papa, and the third is the McCandless Ranch in Kohala.

The koa and ohia forest at the Kapua property ranges from 2,500 feet to 5,200 feet in elevation and provides a habitat for several native bird species and the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat, conservancy officials said.

"Kapua is the only privately held land in South Kona that was never heavily impacted by ranching or logging, and provides a rare glimpse of the potential for forest restoration on other lands," said Rob Shallenberger, the Nature Conservancy's Hawaii Island director.

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