New Land Designations Proposed
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
More Molokai state-owned lands have been proposed for re-designation as Natural Area Reserves and Forest Reserves.
In addition to ‘Ilio Point and Waikolu Valley, which were discussed in a series of meetings last month, new areas on the East End near Pukoo and Halawa could be included in an effort to re-assign land on Molokai. Currently listed as unencumbered state land, the proposal would allow for more specific Division of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) management of the lands, as well as eliminate the risk of future development, according to Emma Yuen with DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Natural Area Reserves and Forest Reserves are designations intended to “allow the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to protect these parcels and provide areas for conservation, preservation, recreation, and sustainable forest products. Activities on these parcels could include the protection of endangered species habitat, cultural site preservation, forest restoration, and access for hiking or hunting,” according to a DLNR press release.
As such, this designation “protects [the land] and sets it on a path to be managed” as opposed to possible leasing or selling of the land for commercial use, explained Yuen.
At a public hearing on Feb. 23 at the Mitchell Pauole Center, Molokai residents had the opportunity to ask questions and as well as submit testimony regarding the new proposed lands.
Community feedback was mixed. Criticism for the proposed project mainly focused on fears of reduced accessibility, as well as general apprehension over increased management.
Some residents also voiced the opinion that meetings pertaining to the east end should take place at Kilohana Recreation Center not Mitchell Pauole Center.
And while this meeting was held in Kaunakakai, Yuen expressed that “I think it is very likely that we will do another meeting on the east side.”
One possible outcome of more active management for Molokai lands could be more employees for Molokai’s DLNR crew. Currently with a staff of only two employees, these new designations could lead to more jobs and more Molokai-specific management.
Molokai DLNR technician James Espaniola explained that changing the designation of these lands from unencumbered to Natural Area Reserve would allow for better communication between Molokai residents and state managers. Likewise, more active animal management could help mitigate the need for aerial shooting.
“For me, that is a plus because I do the shooting and it is high risk,” said Espaniola.
Additionally, Espaniola explained that Molokai residents need to take advantage of these public hearings so they can “ask the right questions to the right guys.”
The DLNR “need[s] to hear from you guys,” said Espaniola.
While the March 1 deadline for written community testimony to be submitted has passed, Yuen explained that the decision-making process is not over.
“We will continue seeking community involvement in the management planning if the area becomes a NAR,” said Yuen.
Molokai residents can visit dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2023/02/07/ to learn more.