Hawaii County will get several thousand more acres to preserve as open space as part of $33 million in federal grants recently released to 21 states.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the grants, which included two Hawaii Island purchases, on Tuesday. The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program will provide $1.2 million so the state can buy 3,128 acres of coastal habitat at Kahuku.
The land includes “more than a mile of coastline on the southern coast of the island of Hawaii,” the service’s announcement said. “These beaches are important habitat for hawksbill turtles, green turtles and Hawaiian monk seals. The property is adjacent to the largest natural area reserve in the state and will provide landscape-level protection of the area’s unique ecosystems and habitats.”
Hawaii County will take ownership of the land, which will be added to the county’s open space land. A message left for the county’s property manager about the timeline to acquire the land was not immediately returned.
Hawaii will also get another $1.2 million to buy two adjacent parcels totaling 4,469 acres on the northern flank of Mauna Kea. This land, critical habitat for the federally listed palila, will be incorporated into a fenced area to restore the mamane forest upon which the palila depends, officials said.
“Acquisition of this property will provide for endangered species recovery and native species habitat restoration in perpetuity,” officials said.
Other species that will benefit from the project include the endangered Hawaiian hawk, Hawaiian goose, and anunu.
The two purchases combined give Hawaii County about a quarter of the total $8.5 million in recovery land grants awarded this year.
Hawaii’s congressional delegation praised the Fish and Wildlife Service for awarding the $2.4 million in grants to the state.
“The protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species is dependent on critical habitat,” Sen. Daniel Inouye said in a written statement.
“Hawaii’s endemic species, including the Hawaiian hawksbill and green sea turtles, palila bird and Hawaiian monk seal, are natural treasures.”
Retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka agreed.
The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund “is an excellent example of what is possible when government partners with landowners and local communities to save endangered or threatened species,” he said in an email.