East Maui Irrigation Co. and The Nature Conservancy agreed on a deal that will add 3,721 acres of rain forest to Waikamoi Preserve, creating the largest private nature reserve in the state.
East Maui Irrigation, a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin Inc., granted The Nature Conservancy a conservation easement, giving it management control of the land. The easement is located a mile above sea level on the windward slopes of Haleakala and shares a 7-mile boundary with The Nature Conservancy's 5,230-acre Waikamoi Preserve.
The easement will result in nearly 9,000 acres of protected rain forest, The Nature Conservancy announced Thursday.
The ‘akohekohe, or crested honeycreeper, is one of two rare species of native forest birds that live in the Waikamoi Preserve.
ERIC NISHIBAYASHI photo
These lands owned by East Maui Irrigation Co. are now part of a conservation easement in an arrangement with The Nature Conservancy that creates the largest private nature reserve in the state. The easement encompasses 3,721 acres of rain forest and borders The Nature Conservancy’s 5,230-acre Waikamoi Preserve.
"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 of The Nature Conservancy. "Now, thanks to A&B . . . it will continue to be protected in perpetuity."
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values, according to the website of the Land Trust Alliance, a national conservation organization. The arrangement allows landowners to continue to own, use or sell the land but limits its uses.
The conservation easement was valued at $190,000, though A&B offered the easement at a discounted price of $142,500. The $47,500 discount met the 25 percent private matching requirement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Program, through the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which funded up to 75 percent of the acquisition costs, the announcement said.
The dense native rain forest is so isolated that no roads and few trails lead to it. It is home to 20 threatened or endangered native plants and two rare species of native forest birds, the 'akohekohe (crested honeycreeper) and the kiwikiu (Maui parrotbill). Invasive species like strawberry guava, pampas grass and Himalayan ginger threaten the birds' habitats.
The Nature Conservancy officials said that one of the top priorities now is to eradicate feral pigs and cattle from the area by putting up a 3-mile fence that will cost $600,000. So far 1 mile of the fence is up with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state Department of Health and Maui County Department of Water Supply.
"For over 140 years, EMI (East Maui Irrigation) has been dedicated to being a good steward and protecting these lands," EMI President Garret Hew said. "This agreement gives us an opportunity to again partner with The Nature Conservancy, which has the expertise and capacity to enhance the protection of this important natural resource."