Air Force Lease Expires on DHHL Parcel
By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor
More than 300 acres of land in the Ho’olehua and Pala’au areas of Molokai that had previously been used by the U.S. Air Force was returned to the Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands last week.
The USAF leased the lands from DHHL under a 25-year lease at $40,270 annually, which expired on Dec. 31, 2022. The USAF used the lands for radio and communications equipment, installation and maintenance, according to a press release from the governor.
Gov. Josh Green announced last week what he called a “long overdue” transfer for Molokai homesteaders.
“This day is long overdue for the beneficiaries and residents of Molokai,” said Green in the press release. “We are honored to accept the return of these lands on behalf of our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. Our commitment to ensuring Native Hawaiians can continue to build their capacity through access to more land remains steadfast in this administration.”
DHHL documents identify the parcel, located along the northern cliffs of the island, as having significant cultural sites that warrant preservation. DHHL says the return of the lands will allow for more continuity and connection of Native Hawaiian beneficiaries with cultural and natural resources in the area. Pastoral in nature, the 363 acres also features miles of shoreline access to fishing and other gathering opportunities for cultural practices, according to the release.
Officials said in a press conference that a comprehensive cleanup of the site was completed prior to the transfer. It included the removal of equipment and facility buildings that DHHL did not want to keep, signed off on by DHHL and the HI Dept. of Health.
It’s not yet clear how the land will be used in the future.
“I am pleased that this land is being returned to DHHL to benefit beneficiaries and homesteaders on the Friendly Isle,” said Sen. Lynn DeCoite. “The repurposing of USAF facilities as critical emergency infrastructure for Molokai’s people will increase the resiliency of our community. Representing the only true canoe district in the State Senate, which covers some of the most rural areas and includes Kaho‘olawe, I am committed to pursuing resources for rural communities and rehabilitation of land and facilities on Molokai and around the state.”
DHHL Director Ikaika Anderson said the return of the land is important, and he planned to visit the site Saturday.
“Receiving these lands back into the Hawaiian homes inventory means a great deal to me and the Governor,” said Anderson. “I am grateful to be traveling to Molokai with Senator Lynn DeCoite to walk this land, and to connect with Hawaiian Homes Commissioner Zachary Helm, with homestead association leaders, and beneficiaries about the future of their lands.”