Kamehameha Schools signs deal to protect dozens of endangered species on Big Island
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A plan 20 years in the making to protect endangered species on the Big Island is now a reality.
Kamehameha Schools, the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Safe Harbor Agreement on Friday.
The deal, along with other associated permits and licenses, is the nation's largest signed with a single landowner and covers 32,207 acres of land across Keauhou and Kilauea forest lands. Kamehameha Schools is Hawaii's largest private landowner.
Under the agreement, Kamehameha Schools will work on a series of conservation efforts aimed at protecting 32 endangered species without having to obtain certain permits, as long as the work falls within the terms of the plan.
"It established a baseline for existing levels of endangered species, allowing landowners to adopt more environmentally-friendly land management practices without penalizing them if endangered species move into the area," Gov. David Ige said, at a news conference Friday.
Officials say the agreement will likely result in significant and lasting changes to the landscape. Some of the animals included in the agreement are the Hawaiian hawk, the Hawaiian crow, the Hawaii creeper, and the nene, or Hawaiian goose.
Twenty-five endangered plant species are also included in the agreement.
"This will not only benefit our species, but also allow them to do educational and cultural work on their lands without any concern because they are now covered under this endangered species act," said Mary Abrams, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The plan hopes to reduce habitat fragmentation and to better allow Kamehameha Schools to continue conservation work without penalizing them if more endangered species move into the area. In total, Kamehameha Schools manages 363,600 acres of land across the Hawaiian Islands.
"Partnerships like this are the foundation of conservation," Abrams said. "When you have a partnership like that, you can do things you wouldn't be able to do alone."
Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.