The state now owns nearly 4,000 acres of native forest on Oʻahu's North Shore with the purchase of land stretching from the Koʻolau summit to the middle of the Waimea Valley.
Last week, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, with federal and private partners, bought the land from the Dole Food Company for $3.7 million. The purchase of the area known as the Waimea Native Forest was made possible with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state's Legacy Land Conservation Program.
In 2006, the land conservation program acquired the lower Waimea Valley and Waimea Beach Park. With the latest purchase, the state controls nearly all of the Waimea ahupua'a from mauka to makai.
"The program, with tremendous support from the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, has helped fund 35 acquisitions since 2006," said DLNR chair Suzanne Case. "The Waimea Native Forest acquisition is the most acreage conserved in a single transaction involving the program's financial support."
The DLNR says the protection and management of the forest will not only provide community benefits, such as hiking, education and cultural activities. But it will also protect North Shore aquifers and endangered and threatened native species.
"It's sort of the holy grail, if you would, for birders," said Lea Hong, Trust for Public Land state director. "I think it was one of the last places, back in the '80s, where the Oʻahu creeper was last spotted -- which is now thought to be extinct. It would be wonderful if the species was rediscovered."
The Waimea Native Forest is also believed to be home to the elusive and endangered ʻŌpeʻapeʻa, or Hawaiian hoary bat.
The DLNR's Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is developing a management plan for the forest, which may take several years. It is also planning to improve the forest for native species by controlling invasive species.
DLNR officials say management of the upper ahupuaʻa will help recharge North Shore aquifers that are fed by the Kamananui and ʻElehaha streams. It will also reduce soil runoff and erosion into Waimea Falls, Waimea Valley, and Waimea Bay, improving an important habitat for humpback whales and spinner dolphins.