Molokai Land Trust (MLT) has received the deed to 1,719 acres of some of the most pristine and environmentally sensitive land on Molokai, which was gifted by Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) in April 2008.
Known as the Mokio Preserve, the land stretches along the north shore of Molokai between Mo’omomi Preserve boundary and the State’s Ilio Point parcel. The Mokio Preserve comprises five miles of spectacular, remote and rugged coastline and is now known as environmentally significant lands.
In 2008, MPL signed a Letter of Agreement to transfer Mokio to MLT. Under the terms of the agreement, the Land Trust will retain ownership of the land in conservation in perpetuity. As well in 2009, MLT signed a 99-year lease so they could develop plans and begin land restoration. Over four years were needed to complete the subdivision and due diligence to complete the land in fee simple transfer.
The Mokio Preserve is a diamond in the rough with significant subsistence gathering areas and an extensive tidal pool system as well as numerous koa or fishing shrines intact with offerings. The area has large ancient adze quarries and habitat complexes. The ecosystem includes bird-nesting locations and over an acre of ‘ihi ‘ihi lauakea, estimated to be the largest remaining site of this endangered endemic Hawaiian fern in the islands.
During the last four years, MLT partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, The Cooke Foundation, Hawaii Community Foundation, The Omidyar Ohana Fund, Maui Economic Opportunity’s AmeriCorps Program, and The Nature Conservancy, to begin dune restoration at Anapuka near the state’s Ilio Point boundary.
MLT also partnered with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and its Plant Materials Center to restore wildlife habitat and reduce erosion on its interior lands marked by bare patches of red earth. The organization is now looking at protecting Mokio’s unique seasonal wetlands in partnership with the USDA NRCS.
An access system has been implemented for island residents, which supports traditional subsistence activities. Contractors were hired in 2009 to assess and provide reports on the botanical, cultural/archaeological and marine resources within the preserve boundaries.
Information provided through these contractor reports formed the basis for a long-range management plan, which was completed in 2012. Archaeological resources have been documented, with the help of an archaeologist, and staff has followed up on recommendations for invasive species removal from these sites to prevent further damage to stone structures.
In 2010, MLT hired an EOD contractor to sweep for and remove military ordnance in the Anapuka area, as well as all major trails, roads, and restoration sites on the preserve. Then MLT partnered with local schools to provide service-learning opportunities and introduce a part of Molokai that most students had never seen before. Development of a native plant nursery has enabled the organization to produce thousands of plants for its ongoing restoration projects at Mokio, and both children and adults are actively involved in the restoration work.
“The land transfer to the Trust is evidence of MPL’s commitment to partner with community-based groups to protect significant legacy lands,” said Rikki Cooke, president of the MLT Board of Trustees.
The Molokai Land Trust was formed in 2006, and is now recognized by the State of Hawaii and the federal government as a non-profit organization with the stated mission, “to protect and restore land, natural and cultural resources of Molokai and to perpetuate the unique Native Hawaiian traditions of the island for the benefit of future generations of all Molokai, particularly Native Hawaiians.”
Cooke concluded, “Now we own the land, and we can expand our efforts to preserve and restore Mokio for future generations.”