A gift worth preserving

HANALEI — A Hawaii family donated two perpetual conservation easements on Thursday to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

The donation comprises about 40 acres of wetland taro located in Waioli Valley and was given to ensure it remained in its natural state forever.

Waioli Valley, situated mauka of Kuhio Highway in Hanalei, has been in active taro production since pre-contact times and remains a major producer of poi for the state. Waioli translates to “joyful water,” or “singing waters,” in Hawaiian. 

Donated by Gaylord and Carol Wilcox, and their daughters Nicole Pedersen, Darcie Gray and Eliza Wilcox, the conservation easements place permanent restrictions on the important farm land protecting it from future development and degradation.

“If lands like these are not protected for the long term, we believe pressures that are evident now for housing development will win out, and the majority of Waioli Valley will be housing before the century is out,” Gaylord Wilcox said when asked why the family made the donation.

The conservation easements will not only ensure the land cannot be developed but identify certain conservation values, agricultural resources, cultural and historical values, wildlife habitat, and inherent scenic beauty, which cannot be compromised or threatened by future land uses, a press release announcing the donation stated.

“Waioli Valley is a truly iconic place, and the preservation of this place is essential to the continuation of Kauai’s rich history of taro production, the ecological well-being of the greater Hanalei area and the protection of an unforgettable scenic vista,” HILT Executive Director Ted Clement said in the release. “We are incredibly grateful to the Wilcox family for their generosity, long-term vision and commitment to land conservation.”

A perpetual conservation easement is HILT’s primary conservation tool. It is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation entity, such as HILT, that permanently restricts certain activities on land to protect its conservation values. 

The landowner who donates a conservation easement to HILT remains the landowner, and HILT must uphold the conservation easement even with future landowners of the subject property.

The nonprofit HILT is the first and only nationally accredited local land trust in Hawaii that has conserved over 17,500 acres to date.

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