Public access route to Ka’u Forest Reserve to be built

A public access route to the Ka’u Forest Reserve will soon be established along three miles of road along the lower boundary of the forest reserve that spans over 61,000 acres on the south-eastern slopes of Mauna Loa. It will make more accessible areas of the reserve for public use which includes hunting, recreational opportunities, cultural uses, personal gathering and educational programs and activities.

To be known as the “Olson Forest Access” establishment of this route was accomplished through a collaborative effort by the Ka‘u community, local hunters, private landowners, public land managers, and natural resource conservation partners.

The public access route was formally agreed to on June 22 this year, when landowner Edmund C. Olson signed a memorandum of agreement with Dept. of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case to establish a public access route to the Ka‘u Forest Reserve over lands owned by the Edmund C. Olson Trust No. 2.

Providing public access is called for in DLNR’s Ka‘u Forest Reserve Management Plan (2012).

The department’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife won competitive grants to establish the public access route from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (Hunting Heritage Partnership).

Other key partners who will be involved include the Hawaii Department of Agriculture; Kuahiwi Contractors, Inc.; Three Mountain Alliance Watershed Partnership; The Nature Conservancy; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; and the County of Hawaii Game Management Advisory Commission.

Together, these partners will install fencing, signage, and roadway improvements along the public access route, and provide ongoing maintenance in accordance with the memorandum.

The public will be able to use the access after DOFAW secures access over the initial segment of the route from DLNR’s Land Division, and the project partners complete the planned infrastructure improvements.

A permit will not be required for entry; however, DLNR rules may require a permit or license for certain activities within the forest reserve.

For more information about the Olson Forest Access, including volunteer opportunities, please contact Nohea Ka‘awa, at Three Mountain Alliance, phone (808) 333-7497.

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