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Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Many support merging
ranch into Volcanoes
National Park

By Rod Thompson

HILO -- Most people at a public meeting spoke in favor of adding Kahuku Ranch in the southern part of the Big Island to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

But among about 100 people attending last night's meeting were some who raised concerns about water transmission, fire control, aircraft flight routes and, especially, hunting.

No one spoke directly against the acquisition.


Two public informational sessions on the Kahuku acquisition remain. Both are at 6 p.m.
Bullet Tonight at the Naalehu Community Center in Kau.
Bullet Tomorrow at Yano Memorial Hall in South Kona.

Ranch owner Damon Estate is offering the entire ranch for $32 million.

The National Park Service is interested only in the 117,000 acres above Hawaii Belt Road, not the small portion below the road, said Volcanoes Park Superintendent Jim Martin.

There is no money for acquisition.

Public comments will be used by Hawaii's congressional delegation in seeking money.

Besides preserving nature, park expansion would create 60 to 100 jobs, Martin said. Access would open to a huge area that is now private.

Martin tried to defuse concerns about taxes, saying federal "payments in lieu of taxes" would provide six to 10 times the amount the ranch now pays.

He said very few people hunt on the ranch now, because the ranch charges high fees. The park would not allow public hunting but would hire local hunters to gradually eliminate sheep, goats and pigs "for many, many years to come."

That comment didn't satisfy some observers.

Mayor Harry Kim said, "I know of no other entity that could preserve this property," but added, "I have a personal thing about any eradication of animal life."

State Board of Land and Natural Resources member Fred Holschuh said the park can do something innovative to find a balance between hunting and the environment.

He called for allowing hunting in certain areas.

Hunter Tom Lodge said, "Animals are a part of the landscape. You need to maintain a balance."

Also a pilot, Lodge warned that the national park has a bias against tour flights which could force tour aircraft to make a huge detour around Kahuku.

Former legislative candidate Bill Eger said the Ocean View community on the dry side of Mauna Loa needs water from the wet, windward side. A park in between could ban a needed water line, he said.

Kamehameha Schools official Jeff Melrose, speaking as an individual, said Kahuku could siphon away money needed elsewhere. Kamehameha has a cooperative agreement with the park and other agencies to manage native forest in the Volcano area.

One young woman said her greatest fear is that the park won't buy the land and it will be developed instead for high-cost housing.

"We'll see roads and street lights," she said.

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