The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is seeking new projects for under the Hawai‘i Forest Legacy Program to protect important working forest lands from the threat of conversion to non-forest uses.
The U.S. Forest Service-funded Forest Legacy Program, administrated through DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, welcomes applications for conservation acquisition assistance.
The Hawai‘i Forest Legacy Program works with private landowners, conservation non-profit groups, the counties and other state agencies to promote sustainable, healthy forests.
“The Forest Legacy Program can be a very competitive program with only a few dozen projects being funded by the U.S. Forest Service each year,” said Lisa Hadway, administrator of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “But Hawai‘i projects have always competed well in this national program.”
Roughly 58 percent of the land in Hawai‘i is privately owned, and 45,000 acres have been protected under the state’s program. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife is also currently working on projects that will protect an additional 5,000 acres of important forested watershed lands through the establishment of conservation easements.
Conservation easements, similar to the agreement reached this year between the state, City and County of Honolulu, The Trust for Public Land, and Turtle Bay Resort for 665.8 acres in Kahuku, are a relatively new conservation tool that allows a landowner to retain ownership of the restricted title to their property while providing permanent protection from development or unsustainable uses, providing landowners with an alternative to selling their land to development companies. While entering into a conservation easements is voluntary, restrictions are binding to all future owners in perpetuity.
The Hawai‘i Forest Legacy Program has identified forest lands throughout the state as important and in need of permanent protection, complementing the state’s broader watershed initiative, “The Rain Follows the Forest.” More about this can be found in the States Assessment of Needs on the Hawai‘i Forest Legacy Program website (http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/forestry/lap/forest-legacy/). The Hawai‘i program accepts both fee title and conservation easement acquisitions. Fee title acquisitions are voluntary and can provide landowners with the knowledge that their property will be managed and owned in perpetuity by the state.
“With the help of land trusts and conservation minded landowners, we have been able to protect our important forest resource, preserving watersheds, sheltering endangered species, and safeguard our culturally important sites,” said Hadway.
The deadline for the next round of applications to the Hawai‘i Forest Legacy Program is Aug. 20. Applications can be found at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/forestry/lap/forest-legacy/ and should be submitted to Irene Sprecher by email at Irene.M.Sprecher@Hawaii.gov. Landowners and non-profits entities who are interested in participating in the Forest Legacy Program are encouraged to contact Irene Sprecher at the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife at (808) 587-4167 or by email to discuss their property and interest in the program.