DLNR To Consider Exchange Of Lands On Haleakala For Public Access

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has proposed an agreement that that it believes will avoid costly litigation, ensure public access to a hiking trail, and create a new access route to two large forest reserves on the leeward slope of Haleakala.

Haleakala Crater

Haleakala Crater

For more than 10 years, a disagreement, and now a lawsuit, has continued concerning the ownership of, and public access to, an obscure trail crossing privately owned lands of Haleakala Ranch. Now, in an effort to find a resolution to the issue and seek a compromise that would serve the public benefit, the state and Haleakala Ranch are considering a land exchange agreement that will provide the greatest public benefit.

Under the agreement, the state would relinquish title to the Haleakala Bridle Trail but maintain a binding, perpetual agreement for public access to the trail. In exchange, the state would receive a perpetual easement for a new access route to its Kahikinui Forest Reserve and Na Kula Natural Area Reserve.

The reserves, located on the upper slopes of leeward Haleakala, comprise more than 3,500 acres of outstanding opportunities for back country hiking, hunting, camping, and nature experience, and are important sites for several department initiatives, including watershed restoration and recovery of endangered species, such as the Maui Parrotbill.

The department is seeking approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday to proceed with scoping and studies necessary for the proposed exchange but will not proceed further with the exchange without returning to the Board for approval. In addition, under state law, any such proposed land exchange would also require consideration and approval by the state legislature.

“We are considering this proposed land agreement because our initial analysis indicates that it may be the solution with the best public benefit. The public would still have access to the Haleakala Trail but would also gain access to thousands of acres of reserves on leeward Haleakala that provide exciting recreational opportunities,” said William Aila, Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawaii is unique among the states in that is has a law that can ensure public ownership of certain trails if it can be determined that those trails were in existence at the time of the original law signed by Queen Lili’uokalani in 1892, or if other criteria are met. In practice, however, determining whether a particular trail meets the requirements under the law can be technically and legally challenging, requiring extensive research, documentation, and in some cases, litigation.

A purported historic route to the summit of Haleakala represents such a case. While public access advocates have claimed that the historic trail, known as the Bridle Trail or Haleakala Trail, falls under the state law, the landowner has vigorously disagreed. As a result, the access advocates have sued and the case is pending in court.

Conditional to the agreement would be requirements that all natural, cultural, and historic features of the Haleakala are identified, protected, and preserved, that the public must continue to have guided public access to the Haleakala trail in perpetuity at a level that is reasonably consistent with the public demand, and that the department has full management authority over the leeward access route.

By securing access to the Haleakala Trail and gaining new access to the leeward reserves, the proposed exchange represents the best outcome for the public benefit and will avoid a costly lawsuit with an unknown outcome that could result in the loss of access to both sites.

Natalie Gates Named as Haleakala Superintendent

Natalie Gates has been selected as the new superintendent of Haleakalā National Park on the island of Maui in Hawai`i.  Dr. Gates has worked at Point Reyes National Seashore in California for the last twelve years, first as a wildlife biologist, and then as chief of natural resource management.  She will transition to her new duties at Haleakalā in March.

Natalie Gates

Natalie Gates

“Natalie has a strong track record in the protection of native species and ecosystems.  She has proven she can solve complicated issues while respecting all the voices in the room,” said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz.  “Natalie’s deep respect for diverse cultures and communities and her team building skills will be an asset to Haleakalā National Park.”

Dr. Gates graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Biology.  She earned a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and a Master’s degree in Wildland Resource Management from the University of California at Berkeley.  She has worked in small animal veterinary clinics New York, Hawai`i and California.  During her career in the National Park Service (NPS), in addition to her experience at Point Reyes, Dr. Gates has worked as acting superintendent of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in eastern Washington and has completed detail assignments with the NPS Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs in Washington, D.C. and with the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the NPS Pacific West Regional Office.  In 2009 she was awarded the Pacific West Regional Director’s Award for Natural Resource Management.

Haleakalā National Park is one of the oldest in the National Park System, established as part of Hawaii National Park in 1916, just weeks prior to the creation of the National Park Service itself.  It was renamed in 1960 when it was split from what then became Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawai`i.  Haleakalā encompasses both rain forests and arid ecosystems in lands ranging from sea level up to 10,000 feet, as well as significant Native Hawaiian cultural sites.

In accepting the position Dr. Gates said, “It will be an absolute privilege to work with the staff of Haleakalā National Park and local communities around it.  Haleakalā is home to a treasure of cultural resources, natural resources and wilderness, and I look forward to working hard to preserve them.”  She added: “I plan on being an avid student of Haleakalā – its stories and its vital importance to Native Hawaiians.”

In the coming weeks, Dr. Gates plans to move to Maui with her husband, Courty, their three sons, and their Labrador retriever.

 

Hawaiian Petrels Get Ready for First Flight

It’s a precarious time of year for one of Hawai‘i’s rarest endemic seabird species, and the national park is keeping a watchful eye on its small population.

Hawaiian Petrel (Photo Jim Denny)

The ‘ua‘u, or Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis), is a federally endangered native seabird, and the only known nests on Hawai‘i Island are within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on the lower alpine and subalpine slopes of Mauna Loa. Wildlife biologists estimate that only 50 to 60 breeding pairs are left here.

In November, young ‘ua‘u leave their nests for the first time and fly at night to the ocean searching for food. A primary threat to fledglings are bright urban lights that cause them to become disoriented and fall to the ground or collide with structures. Once grounded, it is difficult for ‘ua‘u to take flight, leaving them extremely vulnerable to cats, dogs and mongooses.

While a primary threat on other islands, groundings are not as common on Hawai‘i Island, likely due to a much smaller population of ‘ua‘u combined with minimal urban lighting, particularly in and around the national park. The last grounding in the park was in 2006. As a result, the park modified existing lighting to be downcast and shielded on the top, and the park pays careful attention to all new lighting to ensure it meets requirements to minimize disorientation.

“People might be aware of the petrels on Maui since there are many more birds up at Haleakalā National Park, in the thousands. However, most folks aren’t aware that we have petrels on Hawai‘i Island as well. ‘Ua‘u numbers are so low here that the odds of encountering them are rare. The fact that we have only a handful make it important that we protect these remaining few,” said Dr. Rhonda Loh, Chief of Natural Resources Management for the park.

Adult ‘ua‘u arrive on land in early spring and nest in underground burrows, entering and leaving after dark. The female lays a single egg in May. Both parents take turns incubating for 60 days and then feed the chick until it fledges in November or early December.

‘Ua‘u are 16 inches from head to tail, have a three-foot wingspan, and are dark grey on top and white below. They make a variety of calls and one sounds just like its name: oo-AH-oo.

If you find a grounded seabird in the national park, please contact dispatch at (808) 985-6170. Outside of the park, contact the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (808) 974-4221.
In 1987, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park was designated a World Heritage Site due in part to the high number of endemic species, like the Hawaiian petrel, it protects. This year the park celebrates 25 years of World Heritage by offering a series of educational programs about the natural and cultural resources in the park.

For more information, videos and sound recordings of ‘ua‘u, please visit the Pacific Island Parks blog, http://pacificislandparks.com/2012/11/02/hawaiian-petrels-get-ready-for-first-flight/.

National Parks in Hawaii = Visitors, Money and Jobs

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that national park visitors in Hawaii in 2010 spent more than $252 million in communities near national parks and supported 3,420 jobs in the state.

“The people and the business owners in communities near national parks have always known their economic value,” said NPS Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. “In Hawaii communities, national parks are clean, green fuel for the engine that drives the economy.”

Most of the spending/jobs are related to lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).

The figures are based on $12 billion of direct spending by 281 million visitors in 394 national parks and nearby communities and are included in an annual, peer-reviewed, visitor spending analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University for the National Park Service.

The national parks in Hawaii included in this study are: Haleakala National Park, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Kaloko-Honokohua National Historical Park, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, and World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Across the U.S., local visitor spending added a total of $31 billion to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs, an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009.

To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010.

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

For more information on how the NPS is working in Hawaii, go to http://www.nps.gov/hawaii

Federal Interagency Recreation and Hawaii TriPark Pass Now Available

The 2012 edition of the Federal Interagency Recreation Pass and the annual Hawai‘i TriPark Pass are now on sale – just in time for the holidays.

The new 2012 Interagency Recreation Pass provides access to recreation opportunities at national public lands managed by four Department of Interior agencies: the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, plus the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service. This pass is $80 and is valid for one year.

Always a popular stocking stuffer, the $25 TriPark pass is also available, and provides access to Hawai‘i Volcanoes, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, and Haleakalā national parks.

The interagency pass and the TriPark pass are both available for sale at Hawai‘i Volcanoes, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, and Haleakalā National Park entrance stations. Both passes are the size of a credit card and are valid for one year.

“The TriPark Pass is an ideal holiday gift and a terrific way to jump-start New Year’s resolutions to get outside and reconnect with the natural wonders in your backyard,” said Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

The 2012 TriPark Pass features artwork of  ‘ulei by Hilo artist John Dawson. A member of the rose family, ‘ulei is a sprawling native shrub that grows in all three parks. Its flowers and leaves are used in lei and for medicine, while its tough wood is used to fashion ‘o‘o (digging sticks) and hoops for fish nets.

Eighty percent of the pass purchase price is invested in projects that enhance park visitors’ safety, access, and enjoyment. Parks use the money to rehabilitate hiking trails; provide waysides and brochures that interpret distinctive natural and cultural features; improve survival of endangered native species; and more.

For information call Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ fee office at (808) 985-6151.