Department of Hawaiian Home Lands gets back 363 acres on Molokaʻi from military
January 16, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
In a move that Hawaiʻi Gov. Josh Green called “long overdue,” the U.S. Air Force is returning more than 363 acres on Molakaʻi to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
“We hope this right-sizing of our footprint will in some small way contribute to the realization of vision that you and the residents of the island have for Molokaʻi,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Hashimoto with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
The announcement was made during a press briefing Friday.
“It is warming to know” that the land is being returned, especially in the northwest Hoʻolehua and Pālāʻau areas where it could provide opportunities for raising cattle, developing agriculture or homesteading, said State Sen. Lynn DeCoite, who represents Molokaʻi.
“Our inventory of lands and availability to our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries is of the utmost importance,” said Sen. Decoite, calling the area a “key parcel,” that will provide an opportunity to Native Hawaiians to “live the vision of Kūhiō.”
An inundation of axis deer has led to the depravation of land and erosion of soil on the island.
“Whether it be homesteading, whether it be agricultural or pastoral lots, this is something that will come back into the inventory for the department to decide, based on the list of who is next in line to receive — whether or not it will be opened up for those beneficiaries that have the manaʻo to exercise their rights to agriculture and farming,” Sen. DeCoite said.
She also said: “The repurposing of USAF facilities as critical emergency infrastructure for Moloka‘i’s people will increase the resiliency of our community.”
Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director Ikaika Anderson said the property has solid opportunities for pastoral uses and any decisions made on land use will be made in consultation with the people of Molokaʻi and those who represent them.
“On behalf of the beneficiaries of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, it is an honor to be receiving these lands in northern Molokaʻi come back into our land inventory, and to be able to be returned into service for the beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Trust,” he said.
Gov. Green said his administration looked at inventory and immediately consulted with the new leaders of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to find out where there were opportunities.
“Expanding the inventory will further empower the department,” Gov. Green said.
While there was no specific dollar amount placed on the property, Gov. Green gave it some perspective saying the 363 acre parcel is worth more than the $40,000 annual lease.
“In our conversations, they’ve changed a great deal, especially the way the military carries out exercises and the way they use land,” Gov. Green said. “In the spirit of returning land to the Hawaiian people, this was a good opportunity right out of the gate. There’s a particular cultural significance of returning land on Molokaʻi where we have a much greater percentage of people who are Hawaiian, so that was important to us.”
Colonel Michal Holliday with the US Air Force said the lease dates back to the 1960s when it was originally leased to the FAA. Through a couple of lease transactions, Col. Holliday said it became Air Force property in 1981. In 2007, the Air Force determined the land was no longer needed and began the process of returning the land.
He said site visits were made to determine what needed to be cleaned up, removed and what DHHL wanted to keep.
He said asbestos removal was conducted at facilities that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands wanted to retain.
Watch the governor’s press conference here.