Updated: December 6, 2023
The Board of Land and Natural Resources unanimously approved a long-range management plan for conservation activities at Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve for Fiscal Years 2024-2030.
As part of the Natural Area Partnership Program, the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources will provide 2:1 matching funding totaling $2,080,000, with Maui Land & Pineapple Company contributing $1,040,000, toward efforts to protect one of the state’s largest privately-owned nature preserves.
Maui Land & Pineapple Company established the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve in 1988, committing to protect in perpetuity significant watershed, endangered species, and native ecosystem resources.
Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve encompasses more than 8,600 acres stretching from Honokōhau Stream at an elevation of 480 feet to the summit of Pu‘u Kukui – the highest point on Mauna Kahālāwai (West Maui Mountains) at 5,788 feet.
In 1992, Maui Land & Pineapple Company became the state’s first private landowner to join the Natural Area Partnership Program. While Natural Area Partnership agreements are made in perpetuity, funding is authorized by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on a six-year basis to allow for periodic public review.
“Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve is a precious natural and culturally significant landscape that Maui Land & Pineapple Company is proud to have protected and conserved for more than 35 years,” said Race Randle, CEO, Maui Land & Pineapple Company in a news release announcement. “This important work with Living Pono Project, The Nature Conservancy Hawaiʻi and the Department of Land and Natural Resources ensures that the legacy of mauka land stewardship continues, providing ongoing access to quality water for future generations in West Maui.”
Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve primarily consists of native-dominated rain forests, shrub lands, and bogs, including at least 36 species of rare plants and eight endangered species. Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve also provides habitat for nine rare native tree and freshwater snails, three native forest birds – the ‘Apapane, ‘Amakihi, and ‘I‘iwi, endangered and threatened birds like the ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel) and Nene, endangered yellow-faced bees, and Hawai‘i’s only endemic land mammal, the endangered ʻŌpeʻapeʻa (Hawaiian Hoary Bat).
“Many of Hawaii’s most valuable watersheds and rarest plants and animals are found on private land. Partnerships with landowners, such as Maui Land & Pineapple Co, and non-profit land managers like Living Pono are the only way we can ensure these lands are protected,” said Emma Yuen, Natural Resources Management Program Specialist, Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “We greatly appreciate their significant contributions to conserve one of the most pristine places in Hawai‘i.”
As part of ongoing conservation efforts, Maui Land & Pineapple Company and its nonprofit partners, Living Pono Project and The Nature Conservancy Hawaiʻi, continuously complete campaigns to remove invasive plants and propagate native species, and have installed 35 strategically located fences to help prevent the entry of pigs, goats and deer into Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve. These efforts contribute toward preventing erosion into nearshore waters, protecting fisheries and water supplies, and conserving native Hawaiian plants and wildlife.
A critical public benefit provided by Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve is recharging the aquifer responsible for supplying a significant amount of the fresh water used by West Maui residents and businesses. Native vegetation and forest cover protect fragile mountain soils from erosion, and act like an immense sponge that absorbs heavy rains. Water is gradually released into streams and groundwater aquifers, rather than running off the surface in torrents to the sea.
In addition to stewarding Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve, Maui Land & Pineapple is a founding member of the West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership.