Land act proves value in preserving acreage
A state program has helped to shield 168 acres of agriculture land on Molokai.
AT a time when profit pressures have increasingly ceded agricultural and scenic property in Hawaii to housing, resort and commercial development, a pair of conservation grants will keep 168 acres on Molokai from that fate.
The Maui Coastal Land Trust's deal for development rights at Kainalu Ranch fulfills the intent of the state's Legacy Lands Act of 2005, which dedicates a percent of real estate conveyance fees to a program to protect valuable land.
Though the ranch's owners may be the direct beneficiaries of the purchase, all of Hawaii will share the reward of preserving a span of open coastal spaces that are fast disappearing.
The trust's purchase allows the Kip Dunbar family to retain use of the land for agriculture, but places a permanent conservation easement on the property even if ownership changes hands.
The deal marked the first grant under the Legacy Lands Act and the first time funds from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program of the U.S. Agriculture Department were awarded in Hawaii.
During debate on the measure, proponents argued that the state was missing out on matching federal funds for local conservation projects because it had no dedicated funding of its own. The success of the Kainalu venture clearly shows the advantage the legacy land program lends to the islands -- the program's $1.1 million helped to leverage the other half of the purchase price of $2.3 million from the federal program.
Earlier this month, the program also granted $4.7 million to broaden conservation of important lands, including nearly 170 acres in Hana to add to the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hana, an agricultural easement on 108 prime acres in Kunia on Oahu, and 1,336 acres of native forest and habitat near Hilo.
Even with relatively little money, the legacy program is priceless for Hawaii's future.
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