Historic Ranch Donates Development Rights

Thousands of acres preserved on East End.

Three miles of pristine shoreline will remain unspoiled by development forever according to Maui Coastal Land Trust.

By Jennifer Smith

Pu`u O Hoku Ranch took one more step toward conserving East Molokai’s rural qualities by donating last month the development rights on 2800 acres of land.

The conservation easement agreement between ranch owner Lavinia Currier and the Maui Coastal Land Trust (MCLT) continued a relationship she initiated a couple of years ago, according to MCLT Executive Director Dale Bonar.

“Ms. Currier has acted upon her passionate commitment to protect and preserve the lands at Pu`u O Hoku Ranch,” Bonar said. “In this agreement, she has extinguished almost all development rights on the 2800 acres by conveying them to the trust in the form of a conservation easement.”

Pu`u O Hoku Ranch will continue to own and work the land in an ecologically sensitive manner, carrying on their efforts in organic farming and cattle ranching. MCLT will ensure the conservation land will remain untouched by development in perpetuity, regardless if the land is sold or inherited.

Currier donated 87 acres adjacent to Pohakupili Bay in 2006. Bonar described this easement as a way to test the water and see how the relationship would work. “We all worked very well together and things clicked,” Bonar said, explaining how 87 acres eventually led to 2800 acres.

The newly protected land lies on both sides of Kamehameha V Highway, encompassing over three miles of shoreline and climbing to the edge of the Molokai Forest Reserve.

MCLT will conduct annual inspections of the acreage, and keep in touch with the landowner. “The annual inspection forestalls anything happening on the land that shouldn’t be happening,” Bonar said. He used the example of the land trust monitoring water usage on the land to ensure it remains for ranch activity and is never used for commercial purposes.

“We use whatever tools we can to ensure an effective and efficient job of that perpetual monitoring,” Bonar said. Aerial surveys such as helicopters and satellites could potentially reduce the amount of time needed to conduct driving surveys.

In addition to donating the development rights, Currier also donated $75,000 to the MCLT stewardship endowment fund. The money will assist the trust in funding the annual inspections, as well as provide a means to enforce the easement if legal assistance is needed to make sure future owners abide by the land use guidelines.

“These kinds of donations are critical,” Bonar said. “We are able now to ensure permanent protection of land in the name of public interest.”

Currier purchased the13,000 acre Pu`u O Hoku Ranch in 1987 from George Murphy who maintained the land in cattle ranching since the 1950s.

Out of hundreds of plots of land donated, Currier did leave half a dozen plots for family members to potentially build future homes on, and according to Bonar the land may or may not get used.

"My children, our manager and staff at Pu`u O Hoku, and our neighbors on the East End have all contributed to support my vision to preserve these beautiful lands of Molokai,” Currier said in a press release.

Currier’s donation nearly tripled MCLT’s acreage, increasing the company’s land easements from about 1200 acres to almost 4000 acres. The non-profit organization now has nine easements in Maui County, and all but one were donated.

Last year MCLT used $2.3 million of state and federal grant money to purchase the development rights on 168-acres of land on Molokai from third-generation rancher Lance “Kip” Dunbar.

“Dunbar sold the easement at a price lower than what the easement was worth, so there was a donative part of it,” Bonar said. Similar to the Pu`u O Hoku agreement, Kainalu Ranch land continues to be owned and worked by Dunbar.

The land trust does not actively solicit donations. However, Bonar said there may be more land donations in the near future, as several individuals, including some on Molokai, have spoken to MCLT about easement agreements.

The Maui Coastal Land Trust was established as a non-profit corporation in December 2000. For more information visit www.mauicoastallandtrust.org.


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