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Public-Private Coalition Funds Land Conservation in Helemano

David G. Concepcion
DCG's Hawaii Hiking Tales of the Vast Unknown

A large piece of undeveloped land in Oahu’s Ko’olau mountain range is now preserved in perpetuity for the public. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources acquired the property to be set aside for recreational activities like hiking and hunting. But accomplishing that took a lot of help and a lot of money. 

The Helemano Wilderness Recreation Area contains almost 3,000 acres of largely undeveloped land that will be set aside for conservation. The State of Hawaii purchased the parcel from Dole Food Company for just over $15 million.  Marigold Zoll spearheaded the acquisition effort for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. She began the effort in 2013 when Dole put several parceks of land on the open market.

Credit DLNR

DLNR took an interest in that land because it had been paying Dole to maintain a public right of way to the Poamoho Ridge summit trail. That trail provides the easiest access to the summit of the Ko'oalu range, provided a permit is obtained with the state.

$15 million might seem like an insurmountable sum for a state agency, but in this case several other organizations had an interest in preserving the Central Oahu land. Even more importantly, they were willing to fund the purchase. However, those contributinos did not come without conditions.

Several federal agencies, including the Forest Service and Department of Fish and Wildlife contributed multiple millions of dollars to the effort. The Forest Service required that some part of the land be used to support the local timber industry. Fish and Wildlife wanted to see the land preserved as a habitat for the endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat. 

Helping the hoary bat, one of Hawaii's two endemic endangered mammals, was also in the interest of the 

Credit DLNR

Kawaialoa Wind Farm. The renewable energy project's towering wind turbines can be seen from most points along Oahu's North Shore. Those turbines have been killing the hoary bat at a rate greater than that approved by the State of Hawaii under the project's Habitat Conservation Plan. In order to offset the bats being killed around the turbines, Kawaialoa Wind, LLC contributed $2.75 million to preserve the Helemano land as a bat habitat. This is meant to function much like carbon offset credits for industrial polluters.

The U.S Navy also contributed $3.5 million from a fund used to prevent land-use conflicts around miltiary bases. The new wilderness recreation area abuts the Army's Helemano Military Reservation and the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, or NCTAMS.

Helemano Reserve Press Release by on Scribd

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