More Big Isle land
gets protection

2,240 acres in Kona join
the forest parcels lately acquired
by the Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has expanded its Kona Hema Preserve on the Big Island by 2,240 acres, the organization announced yesterday.


The native forest land at Papa in South Kona was purchased from businessman Kent Untermann for $1.7 million.

The new parcel lies at an elevation of 3,200 to 5,600 feet and contains koa, tree fern and ohia forest stands.

It provides habitat for the endangered Hawaiian hawk (io), the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat (opeapea) and the native forest birds iiwi, apapane, elepaio and amakihi, as well as potential habitat for the restoration of other endangered birds that occupied the area until the 1970s, including the Hawaiian crow (alala) and Hawaii creeper.

"We look forward to managing and restoring this unique forest parcel and to working with other public and private landowners in the region to ensure the long-term protection of Kona's native forests," said Suzanne Case, the Nature Conservancy's executive director in Hawaii.

The Papa land is the Nature Conservancy's third acquisition of neighboring forest lands in South Kona in five years. It bought 4,021 acres at Honomalino in 1999, then another 1,800 acres at Kapua, just south of Honomalino, in 2001.

The Honomalino and Kapua lands have been fenced and are being cleared of wild pigs that trample native forest plants, said Rob Shallenberger, the Nature Conservancy's Big Island program director.

When the organization fences and clears the new parcel, it will have more than 8,000 acres fenced and pig-free, setting the stage for regrowth of native forest and sustainable koa harvesting, he said.

"The koa and ohia forest of Papa have been impacted by harvesting, grazing and fire but have great potential for recovery through effective land management," Shallenberger said.

The expanded Kona Hema Preserve is downslope of the 116,000-acre Kahuku Ranch, which the Nature Conservancy recently purchased in partnership with the National Park Service for addition to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

It is just north of the state's 25,000-acre Manuka Natural Area Reserve, creating a large block of land classified as agriculture but managed as conservation land.


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