Diverse Partnership Conserves HI Ranch Land and Open Space

A diverse partnership of federal, state, and county agencies, non-profit land trusts, and a private landowner announced today the voluntary and permanent dedication of Sunset Ranch, over 27 acres of North Shore ranch land, to agricultural and ranching purposes in perpetuity. Sunset Ranch is located in the mauka reaches of Pupukea near the Pupukea-Paumalu Park Reserve, and is adjacent to the Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council’s Camp Pupukea, Waimea Valley, and the trailhead to the Kaunala Loop Trail.

The North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) has received a conservation easement from landowner Pietsch Properties LLC, which will permanently dedicate Sunset Ranch to agricultural uses. Pietsch Properties LLC will continue to own the land and the property will be protected from development in perpetuity. The managing member of Pietsch Properties LLC is Greg Pietsch, a grandson of Charles J. Pietsch, Jr., who originally purchased the property in 1960. Mr. Pietsch’s goal is to keep the land in the family and in productive rural use by focusing on activities that will advance land conservation and self-sustainability efforts in Hawaii, including farming and nursery operations, horsemanship (e.g. merit badge program in partnership with the nearby Boy Scout’s Camp), and special events for community and nonprofit organizations.

“The owners of Sunset Ranch have set a great example for land conservation in the State of Hawai’i,” said Adam Borrello, NSCLT President. “By pro-actively protecting the lands at Sunset Ranch, they have proven their commitment to sound land management in the North Shore community.” This is the first conservation easement that the NSCLT will own and steward, but just one of several conservationprojects that the NSCLT has led or partnered in, including the acquisition and protection of 1,129 acres of Pupukea-Paumalu in 2007 by the State Parks Reserve and the City and County of Honolulu, and the acquisition of over 1,800 acres at Waimea Valley in 2006 by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

This conservation of land for continued agricultural/ranch use is supported by several local and federal programs and partners, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS’s) Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, the Hawai’i Legacy Land Conservation Fund, and the City and County of Honolulu Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund. “This partnership effort is instrumental in conserving our agricultural land for the future, but also assisting the North Shore community in its goals to preserve the rural character of the area’ said Lawrence T. Yamamoto, NRCS Director of the Pacific Islands Area.

Laura H. Thielen, Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), which administers the Hawai’i Legacy Land Conservation Fund, commented: “I am encouraged to see the fund being used to protect agricultural and ranch lands as well as natural areas and habitat. Hawai’i’s natural and cultural resources are as diverse as our local communities, and agricultural and ranch land like Sunset Ranch is an important part of our heritage and the rural character that makes the North Shore a special place.”

Speaker of the House Calvin Say and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa both consulted with the Legacy Land Conservation Commission regarding the project, and stated: “Since the Legacy Land Conservation Fund was established in 2005 by the Legislature, important lands throughout Hawai’i have been conserved, and we are pleased that ranch land in the rural North Shore of O’ahu has been voluntarily conserved.”

City and County of Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann stated: “This is the first time the Clean Water and Natural Funds has been used to conserve land on O’ahu and I am pleased that Sunset Ranch is its inaugural project. I worked with the North Shore community closely to ‘keep the country country’ with regard to Waimea Valley and Pupukea-Paumalu. I was glad to do the same for Sunset Ranch.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit land trust organization that has been working in Hawai’i since 1979, provided NSCLT and the landowner with technical assistance throughout the land transaction process. Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands Program Director for TPL stated: “Even in these difficult economic times, voluntary land conservation can make sense for landowners and taxpayers. Leveraging funding from federal programs to achieve voluntary land conservation through conservation easements drastically reduces local taxpayer burden to protect land from development.”

The Maui Coastal Land Trust (MCLT) also had a hand in the transaction, serving as a pass through entity for the easement to facilitate federal funding of the project. Dale Bonar, Executive Director of MCLT stated: “We were happy to work with our colleagues at NSCLT and TPL to ensure that conservation occurred on the ground on O’ahu.” “We could not have done this project without MCLT’s assistance,” stated Mr. Borrello of NSCLT.