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Friday, January 10, 2014
DLNR Considers Haleakala Land Exchange
By News Release @ 6:22 PM :: 2625 Views :: Land Use

DLNR TO CONSIDER EXCHANGE OF LANDS ON HALEAKALA FOR PUBLIC ACCESS

News Release from DLNR, January 8, 2013

KAHULUI --   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. 

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.

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LAND BOARD AUTHORIZES ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS OF AREAS COVERED BY PROPOSED LAND EXCHANGE ON MAUI

News Release from DLNR January 10, 2014

KAHULUI --   The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) today authorized the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to seek bids to conduct an archaeological inventory survey (AIS) and environmental review (EA) necessary to explore a proposed land exchange agreement between the state and Haleakala Ranch that that the department believes will ensure public access to a disputed hiking trail, and create a new access route to two large forest reserves on the leeward slope of Haleakala. 

The Land Board made clear that it was approving further study of the proposed transaction only and that it would decide on the merits only after this further study with appropriate public input is completed.  The Land Board declined at this time to also authorize the DLNR chairperson to negotiate and execute an agreement with Haleakala Ranch Co. and agree, in principle, to terms for a potential exchange of lands.

Once the reviews are conducted Division of Forestry and Wildlife staff will return to the board for further decision making.  In addition, under state law, any such proposed land exchange would also require consideration by the state legislature.   

One of the alternatives to be considered would include the state relinquishing title to the Haleakala Bridle Trail but maintaining a binding, perpetual agreement for public access to the trail. In exchange, the state would receive a perpetual easement that would allow for a new public 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 supports the further study needed to consider fully this proposed land exchange. We are looking for the solution with the greatest public benefit”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 Liliuokalani 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.

The recommended studies will ensure that all natural, cultural, and historic features of the Haleakala trail and the proposed Wailaulau access are identified, protected, and preserved.. The Department will explore additional alternatives and we look forward to working in partnership with the landowner, with stakeholders and the community to come up with the greatest public benefit.

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