Categorized | Environment, Featured

Enduring force in Hawaii land conservation established

Hana Ranch, Maui, 21-acre conservation easement. (Photo courtesy of Ron Chapple)


Four existing conservation land trusts representing all counties within the state are combining to form the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT), a new statewide land conservancy.

Official on Jan. 1, 2011, the merger creates an organization with the sustainability and resources to safeguard existing protected lands and dramatically grow conservation lands in Hawaii.

Participating in the collaboration are Kauai Public Land Trust, Oahu Land Trust, Maui Coastal Land Trust and Hawaii Island Land Trust.

Driving the decision to merge were shared missions and a combined vision for a cohesive and sustainable approach to land conservation in Hawaii.

“Our passion is preserving land, our promise is to protect it forever,” said HILT Executive Director Dale Bonar, former ED of Maui Coastal LandTrust. “By joining forces we are a stronger and more professional organization capable of sustaining that commitment of perpetuity.”

Each organization’s conservation easements and fee lands are now securely held by Hawaiian Islands LandTrust.

Combined, HILT oversees 15, 229 acres of conservation land across the state, including: 188 acres on Hawaii Island; 11,810 on Maui; 3,057 on Molokai; and 174 on Kauai.

Fundamentally, the merger boosts the organization’s capacity to save more land. Because of its statewide scope, HILT is in a better position to attract the broad financial support and resources needed to significantly increase local conservation lands.

Collaborative and non-partisan by nature, Hawaiian Island Land Trust’s strength is its ability and willingness to work with a host of governmental agencies and other conservation nonprofit organizations.

Currently in active negotiations with landowners on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island, HILT expects to announce thousands more conservation acres within the first quarter of 2011. The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust central office is based initially on Maui.

To continue to best serve the communities in which they work, island offices will be maintained by existing island directors on Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island. All employees have been retained by HILT, creating a staff of 10.

“In some cases,entire operations of an island were falling on one person. A tremendous benefit of our collaboration is that now each staff member can be more highly specialized within his or her skill set,” Bonar said.

From its inception, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust has national accreditation. A mark of distinction in land conservation across the nation, the status was originally earned by Maui Coastal Land Trust in 2009 and conveys to the new organization.

In Hawaii, land is our most important and valuable resource. Its conservation helps ensure clean air and drinking water, food security, scenic landscapes and views, recreational places, and habitat for a diversity of ecosystems.

Land conservation in Hawaii is especially imperative due to the added significance of inseparable cultural relationships and our intrinsic space limitations.

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is a nationally accredited nonprofit organization with the mission of acquiring, preserving and protecting conservation lands across Hawaii for the benefit of the natural environment and current and future generations.


Are there examples of land trusts that have merged successfully?

There are a growing number of recent successful land trust mergers across the country, ranging from small volunteer land trusts joining together to the merger of multiple larger land trusts. Of note is the 2006 formation of the very successful Western Reserve Land Conservancy through the merger of eight Ohio land trusts.

What’s the difference between HILT, The Nature Conservancy, and Trust for Public Land?

All are nonprofit land conservation organizations. We work collaboratively on many projects, however we all have different mission foci. The Nature Conservancy focuses on native ecosystem protection and management,while the Trust for Public Land generally works as a bridge organization to help obtain lands that are then transferred to either a public agency or another nonprofit organization dccLand trusts have a wider range of protection interests, including cultural and agricultural lands, coastal lands for shoreline protection and public access, view-sheds, etc.

Is HILT a State Agency?

No. Land Trusts are 501c3 charitable nonprofits. However, we work closely in partnerships with federal, state and local agencies, as well as private landowners and other nonprofits.

Where does HILT get its funding?

We rely on a diverse funding plan that includes private donations, foundation and agency grants, fundraising events, and fee-for service. Our goal is to increase individual donor funding to 75% of annual operating costs over the next five years.

How does HILT choose projects?

Project selection criteria that meet IRS requirements and conform to National Land Trust Alliance standards and practices are utilized during the evaluation of all potential projects. In some instances, landowners will approach the organization with an interest in placing their lands under protection, however we also proactively seek out lands of particularly important conservation values and approach the landowners with protection options. The input of the Island Councils is particularly important in selecting projects.

Can donors restrict their donations to a particular island or project?

Yes. Generally, funds raised will be applied to operations on a statewide, as-needed basis, but specific funding,whether for acquisition or on-the-ground management activities, may be restricted to a particular island or project.

How will HILT ensure the balance of power and priority between islands?

Our guiding philosophy is to be a representative statewide entity working to protect the most important conservation lands regardless of the county in which they are located. Having a balanced board with effective representation from all counties will always be a first priority.

Will stewardship be part of the HILT mission?

Yes. In most cases, stewardship will involve monitoring of landowner activities to ensure the lands are being managed in accordance with conservation easements held on their property. On lands owned in fee by the land trust, stewardship will include active restoration and management of the conservation values being protected.

How will the board be structured?

There will be a statewide board consisting of members from all counties. In addition, each county will have Island Councils consisting of local residents or stakeholders who will help identify projects, connect with constituents,and assist in local events. Merger planning has specified how statewide board members will be recruited from all counties, with no more that 49% of members from any one county or from out-of-state.

For more details on the organization and its protected lands, call (808)244-5263 or visit

Maui's Hana Ranch from Waihee to Haleakala. (Photo courtesy of Ron Chapple)

One Response to “Enduring force in Hawaii land conservation established”

  1. Fidel Eviota II says:

    I am not sure if this is the website that I have to direct my inquiry. If not, please guide where to inquire about stewardship of Hawaiian Land. I like to take care of a piece of land, if possible, in Waianae area. My family likes to plant vegeatables and flowers and also raise goats. I also like to build a small habitable shed that my family can decently live and take care of the land. I appreciate your favorable response. Thank you very much. I can be reached through my cellphone at (808) 306-0494.


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