Forest Legacy Program shines in “Year of the Forest”
HONOLULU — The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) continues to partner with local land trusts and private landowners to successfully sustain forests through acquisition of conservation easement, which reduce conversion of forest land to other uses.
The Hawaii Forest Legacy Program, administered through DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, is now seeking new applications for funding assistance for forest conservation acquisitions in the federal fiscal year 2013.
The deadline for the next round of applications to the Hawaii Forest Legacy Program is August 22, 2011. Landowners and non-profit entities who are interested in participating in the Forest Legacy Program may contact Sheri Mann at the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 587-4172.
“Hawaii projects have been very successful in this nationally competitive program,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson. “Through the Hawaii Forest Legacy Program we have been able to protect our environmentally sensitive forest resources, preserve watersheds, shelter endangered species, and safeguard our culturally important sites.”
The Forest Legacy Program works with private landowners, states and conservation non-profit groups to promote sustainable, working forests. In the federal fiscal year 2010, the Forest Legacy Program was funded at more than $79 million to assist landowners across the country to conserve and manage their land while protecting environmentally important landscapes.
“Conservation easements are one of the best options out there for a conservation-minded landowner,” stated Kip Dunbar of Kainalu Ranch. “Not only do conservation easements allow landowners to retain and manage their family property -- they also can provide technical and financial assistance, as well as tax benefits for donors, to help with the ongoing cost of managing land for conservation in perpetuity.”
“Conservation easements are a relatively new tool that allows a landowner to retain ownership of the restricted title to their property while providing permanent protection from development or unsustainable uses,” said Paul Conry, Division of Forestry and Wildlife administrator. Easements are strictly voluntary, and the restrictions are binding to all future owners in perpetuity.
“Conservation easements allow the Forest Legacy Program to provide landowners with alternatives to selling their land to development companies,” Conry added. “With the help of land trusts, new cost-share and tax programs, and conservation-minded landowners, Hawaii is increasing the number of incentive programs which afford landowners a secure financial future and enhancement of natural resource that we all benefit from,” he said.
With the recent closing of a conservation easement on Hawaii Island, the Hawaii Forest Legacy Program has assured that an additional 9,000 acres on Kealakekua Heritage Ranch will be protected forever.
The Division of Forestry and Wildlife is also currently working to protect more than 600 acres of important forested watershed lands on Molokai with this program.
Roughly 57 percent of the nation's forests are privately owned yet the country has lost 15 million acres of private working forests in the last 10 years with an additional 22 million acres projected to be at risk in the next decade.
Nationally over 2 million acres of threatened private forests have been protected under the Forest Legacy Program, of which 45,000 acres have been protected under Hawaii’s program.
The Hawaii Forest Legacy Program has identified many forestlands throughout the state as important and in need of permanent protection. More about this can be found in the State’s Assessment of Needs (www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dofaw/hflp). The Hawaii program accepts both fee title and conservation easement acquisitions.