OHA takes ownership of Big Isle forest area
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has formally assumed ownership of the 25,856-acre Wao Kele o Puna forest, an area on the Big Island long valued by Native Hawaiians for its cultural and biota resources.
Under a memorandum of agreement signed June 30, OHA will manage the property with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, with help from the nonprofit Pele Defense Fund, until its staff gains the expertise to manage it on its own.
The Trust For Public Land asked Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, to help secure $3.4 million for the purchase from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program. OHA's board of trustees voted to pay the remaining $250,000 for the property, and to foot an estimated $228,000 bill for annual management and maintenance.
OHA officials hailed the transfer as the first return of ceded lands to Hawaiian ownership.
The 40-square-mile property is home to more than 200 native plants and animal species.