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Natural Resource Protection

About the Natural Resource Protection working group
Documents relevant to this working group:
Preliminary Themes, Goals, and Objectives from the Small Group Meetings

These themes (recurring ideas) were derived from 130 small group meetings conducted across the Puna district.

Preliminary Themes (AINA; CTR-KAI; SID)
  1. Grading/Grubbing Ordinance
  2. Invasive Species Control
  3. Environmental/Sustainability Education
  4. Environmentally Sensitive Codes
  5. Open Space
  6. Sustainable Living
  7. Preservation of Ecologically Significant (native flora and fauna) Areas (International Biosphere Zone)
  8. Coastal and Shoreline Protection
  9. Sustainable Industries
Preliminary Goal – To sustain a healthy local ecosystem

Preliminary Objectives

These objectives have been derived from themes generated from 3,394 ideas provided by broad citizen participation. The numbers in parentheses indicates which theme or themes were used to develop the objectives.

A. Produce a strategy to minimize the clear cutting on new lots. (1)

B. Pursue effective solutions to control invasive species. (2)

C. Create educational programs about the environment and sustainable living. (3)

D. Investigate the feasibility of environmentally sensitive codes. (4)

E. Create incentives to maintain open space and biodiversity. (5, 6)

F. Identify important ecological land & define criteria for connectivity of open space. (5, 7)

G. Proactively promote more sustainable economic, environmental & social development policies. (sustainable industry zone) (6, 9)

H. Investigate the creation of improved regulations or incentives to prevent destructive coastal development. (8)

Excerpts From Previous Plans

Considerable time, thought and community-wide effort has been applied to the issue of natural resource protection in Puna over the past decade or more, resulting in a number of plans that have made specific recommendations. Pertinent excerpts from some of these plans are provided below.

The County of Hawai'i General Plan, adopted by ordinance in 2005, sets the land use and community development policy for the County of Hawai'i, and is intended to serve as a guide for state and federal government and private sector, as well. Here is what the General Plan says about natural resources in Puna:

"Approximately 130,167 acres of Puna are national parks or forest reserves. These areas are non-developable public lands."

"The lower Puna forests and the Ola’a forest are among the finest and most well preserved of their types in the state. The Office of State Planning, the National Biological Survey, and The Nature Conservancy have identified remnants of the Ola’a forest that are currently zoned for agriculture."

"General island-wide subsidence occurs at a rate of 0.25 inches annually. In addition, the south-east shoreline is subject to catastrophic subsidence events of five feet or more due to the activity of Kilauea. Coastal property can change ownership status when inundated. For example, what was once privately owned land may be reclassified as navigable waters under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or public shoreline under State jurisdiction."

"Puna is part of the United Nations-designated International Biosphere Preserve with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as the core. All of Puna’s coastal waters are classified as AA waters making Puna’s coastal areas among the most unspoiled in Hawaii. By definition, “it is the objective of class AA waters that these waters remain in their natural pristine state as nearly as possible with an absolute minimum of pollution or alteration of water quality from any human-caused source or actions. To the extent practicable, the wilderness character of these areas shall be protected” (Hawaii Administrative Rules 11-54)."

"Puna contains the largest concentration of lava tube caves in the world. Lava tube caves are a valuable biological, archaeological, and geological resource. Some of the caves also have considerable utilitarian and cultural importance. The caves also present themselves as unique issue. Lava tube caves run beneath many lots and roadways throughout the district, making positive or negative human interaction with the caves inevitable. Some caves are tourist attractions, while others may be hazardous to life and property. The locations of the caves are not all known, and the County may be held liable in not reviewing building and grading permits for know cave locations is injury or loss of life should occur."

"Along the coast, the black sand beaches and tidal ponds are noted features of natural beauty. Inland, major areas of natural beauty are the 1960 Kapoho and the Pu’u O’o volcanic regions, which represent a force of nature responsible in altering the landscape. A portion of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located within the Puna district."

"Many of the ancient trails connect areas whose natural beauty has cultural significance. Many of which are still protected as public land or with traditional access rights. The presence of unspoiled vistas and traditional sites of natural beauty accessible by trail is an important asset for eco-tourism."

"Course of Action:
In overall land use planning, insure the integrity of continuous corridors compatible with eco-tourism, such as the combination of trail corridors within open space reserves, naturalized drainways, and connection with services and accommodations in town centers and more remote areas, as well as the National Park."

In 1995, the County of Hawai'i secured services of a consultant to complete the Puna Community Development Plan. While it was not adopted, this document sets forth some specific recommendations for natural resource protection:
  • Collaborate with the National Park Service and the State private landowners to develop a master plan for preservation and restoration of the forest which integrates the land use patterns and economy of the settled areas with the health of the forests.
  • Coastal environmental quality should be protected by encouraging placement of new development inland.
  • Consider the use of Transferable Development Rights (TDR) to reduce residential densities in areas of subsidence and coastal pollution.
  • Consider the use of TDR to protect important forest lands in upper Puna.
  • Collaborate with subdivisions containing lots smaller than one acre to educate owners about and plan for the future requirements of central sewers.
  • Support local communities in the preparation of community master plans which provide for retention of continuous natural corridors and reserve areas large enough to maintain ecosystem integrity.
  • Availability of information on lava tube locations should be restricted or controlled to minimize potential vandalism and intrusion into burial sites.
  • Support the creation of an interagency committee including the following:
  • Federal:
    • Natural Resources Conservation Service
    • National Park Service
  • State of Hawaii:
    • Office of Hawaiian Affairs
    • Department of Health
    • Department of Land and Natural Resources and sub-agencies including the Historic Preservation Division, Burial Council
  • County of Hawaii:
    • Department of Public Works
    • Planning Department
    • Civil Defense
  • Community:
    • Hawaii Speleological Survey
    • National Speleological Society
    • Subdivision Associations
    • Puna’s Hawaiian Kupuna
  • ...to propose short-term, education, and permitting procedures for cave conservation and public safety.
  • Consider requirement of cave safety approval as part of County Department of Public Works grading permits and Department of Health individual wastewater system approvals.
  • Support development of a cave management plan.
  • Collaborate with subdivision associations and property owners to find means to compensate landowners if open space dedications are desired which “take” the use of whole parcels or significantly lowers value and use for which there are investment-backed expectations.
In addition to these County-sponsored plans, there are community-initiated plans for Hawaiian Acres and Volcano that contains recommendations for natural resource protection:

Hawaiian Acres Master Plan (1999):
"We plan to implement a process by which more responsibility would be given to the Hawaiian Acres community for taking up the shortcomings of the agencies that issue grading permits. An example would be, tasking our HACWP to report violators.
We plan to create an information sheet to be attached to, or printed on the reverse side of escrow papers, that states the laws regarding grubbing.
We support an ordinance that would require posting of grubbing permits on job sites.
We support increased penalties for grubbing violations.
We support appropriate signage stating requirements for such work to be performed.
We discourage the placement of future geothermal ventures in areas that impact on Hawaiian Acres.
We will work to insure that irradiation facilities are not placed in Hawaii.
We support composting or anaerobic toilets for new homes.
The Hawaiian Acres planning committee seeks to preserve and protect the nonrenewable resource of the lava tubes.
We plan to institute a policy whereby heavy equipment operators i.e. bulldozers, notify HACA as to the locations of lava caves. HACA will reciprocate."

Volcano Vision 2020:
  • Protect and conserve out natural resources and natural beauty from undue exploitation, encroachment, and damage.
  • Develop methods to encourage the saving of the forest ecosystem including native trees and the native understory.
  • Preserve green spaces and wildlife corridors in future developments.
  • Encourage and streamline the process for he consolidation of lots. Discourage the subdivision of lots and ohana dwellings built on speculation.
  • Identify the major lava tube systems under the Volcano area and discourage the use of any of the tube system for disposing of wastewater including septic systems.
  • Educate property owners, renters, realtors, heavy equipment operators, business owners and others about alternatives to practices that may be destructive to the natural resources, beauty or environmental quality of the Volcano area.
  • Promote the prudent use of management of the Volcano area’s unique, fragile and significant environmental and natural resources.
  • Support the increase in tax incentives to protect natural resources and native ecosystems.
  • Support equal tax assessments for all agriculturally-zoned parcels whether they are cleared for farming or forested.
  • Discourage the subdivision of inappropriate commercial use of public lands.
  • Identify and protect exceptional native trees and/or plant and animal communities.
  • Develop programs, guided walks, and written materials to increase knowledge and appreciation of native ecosystems and features as well as threats to them such as mosquitoes, invading alien species, ect.
  • Reproduce “Building in Forest,” “Controlling Noxious Weeds,” and similar pamphlets on identifying and growing native plants, and disseminate to the community.
  • Inform lot owners about environmentally sensitive waste disposal systems that do not require large clearings.
  • Encourage partnerships among community stakeholders.
  • Develop community dialogue on issues that may affect Volcano’s unique environment.
  • Encourage cooperative land-use development and management to protect native ecosystems.

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