Last year, the state acquired 2,882 acres of forest land and former agricultural lands in the Helemano area of Central Oahu. This area is now in the process of being placed in the State’s Forest Reserve System and the Hawaii Department of Fish and Wildlife (DOFAW) has begun developing a plan for the Helemano Wilderness Area, which borders the Ewa Forest Reserve and the Poamoho Trail.
The plan will serve as a tool to promote access, recreation, and safety while preserving and enhancing the beauty, history, and natural resources of this special place. In recognition of community interest and the uniqueness of the area, DOFAW envisions the development of the plan will include opportunities for people to share their knowledge and vision for the Helemano Wilderness Area. In other words, they want your opinion!
To provide a user-friendly way for people to share knowledge, stay up to date with the plan’s progress, and to download and review it, DOFAW and its consultant, Planning Solutions, Inc., have created a website with an interactive, social media-style commenting tool. See www.HelemanoWilderness.com.
At this point, four primary priorities have been identified: recreation, watershed conservation, native species and forests, and local forestry products. The Ewa Forest Reserve and its hunting areas were previously difficult to access, and many people have expressed interest in greater camping opportunities. Increased hiking and educational programs may also be a good fit for this land. Of course, watershed protection is essential to protection of land and water.
Some of the lands are leased for cattle ranching. Should those leases be extended, modified or terminated when they come up for renewal? Other lands might be appropriate for timber harvesting to support wood working, artisans and cultural practitioners. Now is the time to share your opinions.
A portion of the funds used to acquire this land come from Kawailoa Wind, who are in the process of amending their Incidental Take License. Part of their proposed mitigation for the continuing destruction of endangered opeapea (Hawaiian hoary bat) is to provide funds for forest protection. Other major funders include the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Navy, and Hawaii Legacy Lands.
Improvements will be limited to conservation and public recreation activities appropriate to the area and DOFAW’s mission. Examples of appropriate activities include planting of native trees, camping, hiking, off-highway vehicle recreation, hunting, fruit orchards, bird watching, and mountain biking. All activities planned for the Helemano Wilderness Area should be compatible with protection of its natural resources and the management goals being developed through this planning process. The planners are waiting to hear from you.