Kilauea refuge release plans

LIHUE — Major changes including a new visitor center could be on the horizon for the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

On Thursday, the refuge released its Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan which details its vision for the area and potential management priorities for the next 15 years.

“The key to this is providing a consistent management, no matter who comes in over the years,” said Jennifer Waipa, supervisory park ranger for KPNWR Complex. “This is the guiding document that guides our refuge.”

The draft plan includes an analysis of four management alternatives. Actions for protecting and sustaining the refuge’s natural and cultural resources, addressing transportation needs and priority public use programs including wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, interpretation and fishing, and law enforcement were evaluated in the draft plan, according to a release.

Under all alternatives, traditional Hawaiian fishing at Kilauea (East) Cove and access to Kahili Quarry for fishing, boating and stream, beach and ocean uses would continue.

Under the refuge’s preferred alternative, long-term protection and enhancement of migratory seabird and nene populations and native plant communities would be expanded at Crater Hill and Mokolea Point. Monitoring programs would be expanded and additional interpretive and environmental education programs are proposed.

“The refuge’s small size and high level of visitation creates operational, access and safety issues; and impacts endangered species,” states a release. “In the short to medium term, operational and infrastructure changes would be evaluated such as reconfiguration of traffic flow and signage. In the longer term, we are proposing to further evaluate developing new facilities off of current refuge lands, to provide public parking, access, visitor information and orientation; facilitate public uses; and function as the administrative and maintenance facility.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on the draft plan. Comments will be accepted through March 27.

Staff from the USFWS will present the draft plan and answer questions during a pair of public open house meetings later this month. The first meeting is from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center, 2460 Keneke St. The second is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Kilauea Elementary School, 2440 Kolo Road.

A link to the full planning document can be found at: www.fws.gov/refuge/kilauea_point/. Hard copies or CD copies can be requested by calling the refuge office at (808) 828-1413. The public review and comment period ends on March 27. Comments can be sent to: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov.

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