HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii plans to protect thousands of acres of land in central Oahu from development after acquiring the property from Dole Food Co.
The $15.2 million deal will protect a critical watershed that helps replenish one of Oahu’s most important aquifers, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources aims to open part of the 2,900-acre property to hikers, campers and hunters.
The department has been working to acquire the land since Dole listed it among 20,000 acres that were for sale in 2013.
“It’s a central location, very accessible, and it provides a lot of outdoor recreation and conservation management capability right in the middle of Oahu,” said Suzanne Case, chairwoman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
The tract now called Helemano Wilderness Recreation Area includes conservation land and fallow agricultural fields where pineapple was grown. A portion that’s flat and has beautiful views was particularly vulnerable to the development of homes if acquired by another buyer, said Stephen Rafferty, project manager for the Trust for Public Land Hawaii, which facilitated the deal.
Funding for the purchase comes from the state’s Legacy Land Conservation Fund, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Legacy Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Plan, the Pittman-Robertson Fund, the Navy and Kawailoa Wind.
The Trust for Public Land Hawaii bought the property and conveyed it to the state.
The land was appraised at $16.56 million.
The department plans to reforest portions of the land with native trees and vegetation, which will help protect the watershed, and potentially produce products such as koa and sandalwood for sale.
The forest there feeds the Central Oahu aquifer, which provides water to one-third of Oahu’s residents in communities from Pearl Harbor to the North Shore, the department said.