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State’s largest private nature preserve created in East Maui

By Staff | May 1, 2014

The parcel covers 3,721 acres of undeveloped rainforest high above Makawao.

HONOLULU – The Nature Conservancy and East Maui Irrigation Company Limited (EMI), a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin Inc., have closed a historic agreement that will create the largest private nature reserve in Hawaii, nearly doubling the size of the Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve.

The A&B land shares a seven-mile boundary with the Nature Conservancy’s 5,230-acre Waikamoi Preserve. Together, the two properties will result in nearly 9,000 acres of protected rainforest.

“This area has been one of The Nature Conservancy’s highest priorities for more than two decades. The land lies at the core of the 100,000-acre East Maui watershed and is one of the most intact pieces of native forest in the state,” said Mark White, director of the Conservancy’s Maui Nui Program. “Now, thanks to A&B and EMI, it will continue to be protected in perpetuity.”

EMI granted to The Nature Conservancy a conservation easement giving it management control of the land.

The site covers 3,721 acres of entirely undeveloped rainforest high above Makawao at elevations from 3,600 to 9,500 feet above sea level. The conservation easement was valued at $190,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Program, through the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, funded up to 75 percent of the acquisition costs. A&B provided the Conservancy the easement at a discounted price of $142,500, donating the required 25 percent in matching private funds, or $47,500 worth of value.

Located a mile high in the dense native rainforest of windward Haleakala, the property is a treasure chest of native wildlife so remote that no roads and few trails lead there. Its isolation has served to protect the area. The rainforest is home to 20 threatened or endangered native plants, and to two exceedingly rare native forest birds. Despite its isolation, the land is threatened by a range of invasive species.

“The first conservation move is to establish a three-mile, $600,000 fence to block pig and cattle access on EMI land,” said White.

One mile of fence has already been constructed, protecting a 12,000-acre core area that includes the majority of Waikamoi and part of the EMI easement.