Oahu wildlife refuge to expand - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Oahu wildlife refuge to expand

Senator Daniel Inouye Senator Daniel Inouye
Jurrell Kai Jurrell Kai
Robyn Thorson Robyn Thorson

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

KAHUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bird lovers are rejoicing as a huge property on the North Shore of Oahu will be set aside for endangered species forever.

After ten years of bargaining the James Campbell Company has agreed to sell that North Shore land to the federal government to be protected as a wildlife refuge. The price is $22 million. It pays for 1,100 acres, including two miles of pristine coastline in Kahuku complete with natural dunes and wetlands. The wildlife refuge was originally just 150 acres in 1976. The expansion makes the refuge nearly eight times the original size.

Senator Daniel Inouye, who many credited for making the deal happen, called the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge a haven for birds and a heaven for bird watchers.

"You can go right up to a bird and they won't run away, they know they're safe here," said Sen. Inouye.

"The way they manage the refuge, they have different amounts of water in different ponds, they have different kinds of water, fresh water, salt water, brackish water so they are managing the ponds for different birds," said Marian Leong, Lelekamanu Education Director and tour guide.

The refuge is home to four different types of endangered species including the Hawaiian stilt, the Hawaiian coot, the Hawaiian duck and Hawaiian moorhen, as well as migratory birds like the bristle thighed curlew and kids are learning all about them.

"I can't pick a favorite because it was all amazing and really fun," said Jurrell Kai, a 6th grade student from Kahuku Elementary.

"It was cool. We saw a bunch of birds and we could see the fish, when it was close to the top of the water it had ripples behind it," said Keanu Akina, a 6th grade student from Kahuku Elementary.

"This is essential for the recovery for these endangered species. And this is also part of Hawaii's natural heritage to see dunes, wetlands, uplands in its natural state," said Robyn Thorson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Region Director.

The expansion comes at a price. The federal government will pay the James Campbell Company $22 million, money that some might call an earmark, but Senator Inouye defends this project.

"The United States without this type of activity is not a good country," said Sen. Inouye.

When taken on average it's just $20,000 an acre. That includes scenic beach front property. The senator says it's a relatively small price to pay to protect the land from development and help species soar.

"Someday future generations will come here and say thank God we did this," said Sen. Inouye.

Unfortunately the public tours are almost over this season. The endangered species start their nesting period soon and they don't want humans to interfere with the process. However the last two tour days will be this Thursday February 18 and Saturday February 20. To make a reservation call (808) 637-6330 or visit the refuge's web site.

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