(BIVN) – Kamehameha Schools has entered into final negotiations with a new lessee, Pa‘auilo-based Hawai‘i Forest, to oversee operations and harvesting of more than 10,000 acres of forest on the Hāmākua Coast of Hawai‘i island.
Kamehameha Schools is calling it a major step in the selection process toward finding a lessee to oversee its Hāmākua forestry in ʻOʻōkala and Umauma.
“We are excited to take this next step in working on a long-term plan for the stewardship of our agricultural lands along the Hāmākua Coast,” said Marissa Harman, Director of Asset Management on Hawai‘i island, in a media release that included sweeping drone footage of the pasture lands and timber forests. “Hawai‘i Forest has a wealth of experience and knowledge in managing land assets and the company also brings to the table a track record of successful engagement with community. Those qualities are important to us,” Harman said.
According to the media release, Hawai‘i Forest consists of a hui of businesses that include Forest Solutions, Inc., and Edwin DeLuz Trucking and Gravel, both companies with experience in working in large scale forestry operations along the Hāmākua Coast.
“Hawai‘i Forest is grateful for the trust Kamehameha Schools is putting in us and we are committed to a common goal of creating a long-term integrated forest industry along the Hāmākua coast,” Hawai‘i Forest’s Marius Ellis said.
Kamehameha Schools provided some background on the selection process:
Kamehameha Schools acquired approximately 30,000 acres from the former Hāmākua Sugar Co. in 1994 and then transitioned the land from sugar to a variety of uses including small-scale commercial, residential, diversified agriculture, pasture and timber forest.
The previous tenant, LHF Lopiwa, LLC (LHF), notified Kamehameha Schools last year that it would not seek an extension of its lease which expired on Dec. 31, 2016.
On Jan. 3, 2017, Kamehameha Schools sought qualifications from interested bidders to enter into a new agreement for the forest plantation lease. Once qualified, interested bidders were identified and asked to submit proposals for a new lease.
“We sought operators with experience in plantation forest management, marketing, modeling and harvesting,” Harman said. “The new lessee will be responsible for a variety of tasks – harvesting the timber forest, remediating the condition of the land and working with us on a long-term plan for the use of this land beyond timber, including transitioning some of the acreage to other diversified agriculture or community uses.”
Kamehameha Schools says it dedicates more land to sustainable agriculture than any other private landowner in Hawai‘i and is deeply committed to keeping its Hāmākua lands in productive agriculture and forestry.
“The well-being of our lāhui is directly related to the health and condition of our ‘āina,” Harman said. “It is imperative that we manage our ‘āina to be resilient so that it continues to provide us the physical, spiritual and cultural connections in perpetuity and continue to strengthen our Native Hawaiian identity. We believe that the selection of this new lessee will enable us to better manage our land assets along the Hāmākua Coast.”