Fears over cultural values raised by Kanaio project

The Maui News
Sunday, October 19, 2003


PUKALANI - Even if the Edward 'Uweko'olani claim on two lots in the Kanaio Natural Area Reserve (NAR) hadn't been an issue, there were still other concerns about the first phase of the fencing project to enclose about 850 acres above Piilani Highway on the way to Kaupo.

Because of the rough terrain, the state plans to use bulldozers to clear a line to lay the fence, a proposed action that doesn't sit well with the homesteaders of Kanaio or others who were at the public briefing last week.

Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., who was hired by the state to prepare a cultural practices assessment of the area, said the bulldozing would be offensive to Hawaiians because the lava targeted to be torn up represents Pele.

"I see everybody here is 100 percent for protecting the flora and fauna, but crushing the rock, that's the essence of Pele," said Maxwell. "For 100 years, cowboys put the fence posts in without bulldozers."

NAR specialist Bill Evanson acknowledged that the proposal to bulldoze on the backside of Haleakala has upset many people, but he added that there might not be any other way to erect the fence because of the harshness of the land that contains the treasure trove of rare resources. The Kanaio reserve is home to one of the best vestiges of dryland forest left in the state and remains home to 14 endangered plants along with other species that have been proposed for protection. Because of the threat of destruction by pigs and goats, and a growing infestation of axis deer, there's an increasing urgency to fence the animals out to rescue the forest before it's too late.

Since the reserve is dominated by lava that is rough and difficult to traverse, the fencing will actually be constructed in more accessible territory that lies outside the boundaries of the 595-acre designated NAR. That means the fenced-in area will also include 95 acres of unencumbered state land on the Ulupalakua side of the reserve and 160 acres offered by Ulupalakua Ranch on the Kaupo side, all of which will become a defacto part of the NAR.

The 8-foot high fence, which will have no barbed wire, will include gates so the area will be open to the public.

"It's meant to keep animals out, not to keep people out," said Evanson, who acknowledged that he doesn't like fences, either, but shares the belief that it's the only way to save the vanishing species within.

Once the area has been enclosed, it's hoped, the native plants and trees will naturally regenerate. Additional outplantings will help boost the populations and also help the endangered birds and insects that struggle to survive. Evanson said the fenced-in reserve will be modeled after similar fenced-in projects at Auwahi (located in the ahupuaa next to the reserve) and Puu-o-kali. Those efforts, both spearheaded by research biologist Art Medeiros, have received nearly universal praise.

Following Maxwell's advice, Evanson said fencing will be limited to the rough aa lava instead of the smooth pahoehoe, which can create lava tubes or caves where ancient Hawaiians often buried their dead.

The 280-acre triangle of the Kanaio NAR located makai of Piilani Highway will not be fenced. The second phase of the fencing project is planned for directly mauka of the first phase where 400 acres of unencumbered state land are in the process of being added to the reserve.

The statewide Natural Area Reserve System was started in the mid-1970s to protect some of the most unspoiled pockets of Hawaii that harbor precious geological or biological resources threatened by modern-day life. Although the 19 reserves covering about 110,000 acres on five islands amount to just 3 percent of state-owned land, they represent the greatest concentration of protected biodiversity in the entire nation.

On Maui, reserves are located at Hanawi, Ahihi-Kinau and four West Maui parcels that are collectively known as the West Maui NAR. On Molokai, reserves can be found at Olokui and Puu Alii. There are none on Lanai.

Copyright © 2003 — The Maui News

Original Story URL: http://mauinews.com/news/story/1019202003_new03Fears1019.asp

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