BLNR to consider Maui nature preserve access restrictions

WAILUKU — Hawaii will consider whether to restrict access to a nature reserve where rock-climbing activities are threatening native plant species, officials said.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources is expected to consider restricting portions of the West Maui Natural Area Reserve, The Maui News reported Wednesday.

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The state Division of Forestry and Wildlife asked the board to limit access to cliff areas in the Lihau section of the reserve for up to two years. The board is expected to consider the request during its meeting Friday in Honolulu.

Rock climbers have installed hardware and footholds in cliffs in the area, officials said. Modifying geological features including chipping rock for footholds is prohibited under state law, according to land and natural resources board documents.

The changes affect threatened and endangered plants such as the Maui chaff flower and the Menzies’ schiedea. Climbers hiking to the rock walls also are affecting West Maui’s only known population of yellow hibiscus, which is in danger of trampling or breakage, officials said.

The dry cliff ecosystem is home to vegetation that grows on steep slopes in areas receiving less than 75 inches (191 centimeters) of rainfall per year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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The forestry and wildlife division proposed installing signs explaining to rock climbers why the activity threatens the rare plants.

“While Natural Area Reserves are generally open to the public, the very close proximity of these climbing routes to rare plant species warrants a closure to prevent further harm to these critically endangered plants,” the division said in its request to the board.

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