(BIVN) – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees unanimously approved the Wao Kele o Puna Comprehensive Management Plan during a Resource Management Committee meeting on Oahu Wednesday. The meeting was livestreamed over the Internet.
Planning consultant Peter Young presented the plan to the OHA board of trustees. In June 2017, the public was given the same detailed overview during a meeting held in Kea’au.
OHA acquired the 25,856-acre property in 2006. It is one of few remaining tracts of lowland rainforests in the State of Hawaiʻi. Wao Kele o Puna provides watershed recharge, a native plant seed bank for Kīlauea volcano, endangered species habitat, and forest resources for gathering and cultural practices. OHA says it is a sacred place for Native Hawaiians, and is part of the home of the Goddess Pele.
Since the beginning of 2016, OHA has been working with its contractor, Forest Solutions Inc., and a number of subcontractors, to draft a Comprehensive Management Plan. It is now going before the OHA Board of Trustees for approval.
At the OHA committee meeting, some trustees expressed reservations.
“OHA was never a welcome party to this arrangement,” said OHA trustee Colette Machado. “It met with such disagreement from community members. And also my good friend Palikapu Dedman and Pele Defense Fund. There seemed to have been some concern as to whether we had the credentials, or the heart, to manage the forest. It has taken 11 years from acquisition to where we are today.
“I’m still not convinced that we will be embraced by the community there,” Machado said, before urging the board to support the plan as part of its acquisition partnership commitment. OHA spent $300,000 to buy the land, while the Federal Forest Legacy Program paid the balance of the $3.65 million purchase price.
The CMP will be on the agenda for the OHA Trustees meeting in Kona on September 7.