State and Federal Grants Protect O‘ahu Native Forest and Trail System
(Honolulu) – Kalauao valley has a long history of providing for the people of Hawai‘i. Historically, the valley was used to gather plants and herbs used for healing practices at Keaīwa Heiau. The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) recently purchased 635 acres in Kalauao Valley from Bishop Museum. Funding for the acquisition was provided by the State’s Legacy Land Conservation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Land Acquisition Program.
The parcel includes portions of the popular ‘Aiea Loop and Ridge trails and is home to the endangered O‘ahu ‘Elepaio (Chasiempis ibidis) and ten plant species including the O‘ahu Violet (Viola oahuensis), Purpleflower Blacksnakeroot (Sanicula purpurea), ‘Ohe‘ohe (Tetraplasandra gymnocarpa), and Hāhā (Cyania lancelota). It hosts a healthy native ecosystem which includes damselflies, and forest birds such as ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens), and ‘Apapane (Himatione sanguinea).
Kalauao was identified as sensitive watershed land in the 1900’s and is now part of the Ko‘olau Mountains Watershed Partnership and acts as a vital water catchment and filtration system for Honolulu’s groundwater supply. The Ko‘olau Mountain Range produces a sustained yield of 135 billion gallons of water per year with an estimated value of this watershed of $14 billion. Adjacent parcels are also zoned conservation. Together with Kalauao they form a continuous open space corridor for native birds and plants.
Kalauao Valley Forest is over seventy-five percent native vegetation in the upper regions and fifty-one percent in the lower valley. The vegetative communities in Kalauao are lowland wet forests, lowland wet mixed communities and lowland mesic forest. These communities are dominated by Koa (Acacia Koa) and ‘Ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha). Native vegetation, such as the forest in Kalauao, have been shown to absorb significantly more carbon than introduced and invasive plants, reducing the impacts of climate change to the islands and preventing erosion and runoff better than introduced or invasive species which in turn maintains the health of offshore reefs.
DOFAW Administrator David Smith said, “‘Aiea Loop and Ridge trails are visited by thousands of tourists and kama‘āina every year. These popular trails are also one of the few places on O‘ahu to see quality native forests and endemic forest birds in their native habitat. The trails are used for hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, backpacking and wildlife photography.”
“The primary goal of acquiring Kalauao Valley is the protection and management of the area in perpetuity, as part of the Ewa Forest Reserve under the State Forest Reserve System,” according to DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. She added, “The addition of Kalauao to the Ewa Forest Reserve will enable DLNR to protect this area in perpetuity, manage compatible recreational and educational opportunities and facilitate management actions for the recovery of threatened & endangered species and critical habitats.”
DOFAW is holding a hearing to provide interested people the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed addition of Kalauao to the Ewa Forest Reserve. It is scheduled for Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kalanimoku Building, Land Board Conference Room 132, 1151 Punchbowl St., in Honolulu.
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Senior Communications Manager