Hawaii school system signs deal to aid species recovery

HONOLULU — An agreement between government agencies and a Hawaii private school system aims to protect and aid the recovery of 32 endangered plant and animal species on the Big Island.

Kamehameha Schools signed a 50-year safe harbor agreement Friday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, covering about 32,200 acres (13,000 hectares) of land owned by the school system on the southeastern slope of Mauna Loa.

“Partnerships like this are the foundation of conservation,” said Mary Abrams, a field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This agreement will promote habitat improvement across the whole landscape in a way that not only benefits the protected and endangered species that live there, but also improves the entire watershed.”

The deal allows Kamehameha Schools to adopt land management practices that support the recovery of the species without facing additional government oversight. The agreement includes one federally threatened animal species and seven endangered species, including two species of Hawaiian honeycreeper and the Hawaiian hawk.

“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,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement.

For the past 25 years, Kamehameha Schools has worked on habitat restoration and conservation projects on its more than 360,000 acres (145,700 hectares) of property, said Jason Jeremiah, director of Kamehameha’s natural and cultural resources department. The agreement will allow work to increase without the fear of additional regulation, he said.

“Protecting these species is one of our highest priorities,” Jeremiah told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

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