BLNR to mull fine for conservation easement damage

  • Bulldozer damage is seen on the trunk of a mature ohia tree within the 1.77-acre damage area of the Kealakekua Mountain Reserve. (Screen grab from DOFAW submittal/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Mature ohia trees with bulldozer damage to the roots are seen within the 1.77-acre damage area of the Kealakekua Mountain Reserve. Fill material was also pushed next to the tree, at least 10 feet within the KMR property. (Screen grab from DOFAW submittal/Special to West Hawaii Today)

A Kona coffee grower has agreed to fund the planting of hundreds of Native Hawaiian trees as part of a settlement meted with the state for damaging a conservation easement in 2019.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife is requesting the Board of Land and Natural Resources approve a settlement with Kona Hills LLC stemming from a trespass of the state’s conservation easement on the Kealakekua Mountain Reserve (KMR) in 2019.


The state’s conservation easement, which it has held over the Kealakekua Heritage Ranch land since 2011, restricts certain activities on 9,000-plus acres of the KMR property in order to protect conservation values including native forest ecosystems, forest resources (trees), scenic open space, and recreational, research and educational values.

According to the division, the damage occurred sometime before May 31, 2019, as Kona Hills was improving an existing roadway in mid-2019. The road construction work, which is restricted within the easement unless authorized, encroached on 1.77 acres of KMR property.

In addition to grading and grubbing altering the surface of the property, creating numerous water drainage channels that will cause soil erosion, the division said mature ohia trees were damaged during the road work process.

“Injuries to the roots of the trees and piling excavated material next to the trees is likely to cause these trees to die, which negatively impacts the conservation values protected by the conservation easement,” the request to the board reads, noting that the division visited and observed the damage June 18, 2019, and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Kona Hills on July 1, 2019.

Kona Hills has agreed to the division’s proposal to provide funding totalling $6,284 to repair damage and resolve the conservation easement trespass. More than $2,200 of that will go toward purchasing 600 seedlings including ohia, hoawa, kolea, aalii and ilihai and another $1,500 to planting. The remainder of the money will cover forester planning, site preparation, and maintenance, which includes weed control.

“Restoration with native species will mitigate damage to the KMR property including reduction of soil erosion and restoration of native trees damaged by construction and rehabilitation of graded and grubbed sites. In consultation with KMR, Kona Hills LLC installed boundary fencing along the road following road construction, which will be beneficial to the overall management of feral ungulates in the conservation easement. Restoration costs for this settlement are based on costs/acre for other state and federal reforestation programs in the vicinity of the property and include site preparation, native trees and shrubs and tree planting and maintenance,” the request reads.

The board is set to take up the request during its meeting Friday, which will be conducted virtually and livestreamed at

Written testimony from the public is due 24 hours ahead of the meeting and can be submitted via email to Those wanting to provide oral testimony during the online meeting, should send a request to at least 24 hours in advance.

The division is also requesting the board authorize DLNR/BLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case to negotiate and sign an agreement with the KMR that describes the specific activities and timeframe for the reserve to restore the damage using the settlement funds.

If the board signs off on the request, the settlement must still be reviewed and approved by the Department of the Attorney General.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email