Legacy land benefits go beyond purchases
The state has awarded grants to four groups and Hawaii County to buy worthy lands.
A total of $4.7 million in grants will see far more valuable returns than the estimated
$20 million in property the funding will help to buy under the state's Legacy Land Conservation Program.
In addition to protecting an almost complete ahupuaa on Molokai, miles of unobstructed shoreline on Hawaii island, 20.5 acres next to the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai and 128 more along the southeast shore of Maui, the grants will sustain a small agricultural parcel in Lualualei on Oahu that feeds education and opportunity to young people on the Leeward coast.
Approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources was the final step for four nonprofit groups and Hawaii County to receive the grants that will benefit the public for years to come.
On the Big Island, more than 550 acres will join another 234 acres bought by the county at Kawa Bay that had been up for sale for residential development. With the state's $1.5 million award and funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the land containing heiau, a freshwater spring, ancient trails and native plants will continue to be open space.
On Maui, Nu'u Makai will now be protected coastal, wetland and wildlife habitat with the help of the land's owner and federal grants.
Molokai Land Trust will hold 196 acres in Kawaikapu for watershed, cultural and scenic values and on Kauai, the wildlife refuge will enjoy 2.5 acres on Kahili Beach free of luxury home development.
The lands could not have been acquired without the program in which applicants find matching funds or donations to supplement state money that comes from conveyance taxes applied to sales of expensive homes. Though the program has it critics, it has proven its worth many times over in the three years since it was established.
Legacy extends beyond simple land purchases. Although the smallest of properties at 11 acres, the Lualualei piece will increase the bounty of the Waianae Community Re-development Corporation, which operates MA'O Organic Farms. The organization has introduced hundreds of teenagers and young people to agriculture and to learning about the business and health aspects of organic farming. So successful, the program supplies fruits and vegetables to fine island restaurants, stores and farmers markets.
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