Pōhue Bay Preserved From Mountain to Sea, Pōhue Bay now Part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

More than 16,000 acres protected in perpetuity by Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service

July 12, 2022
Kaʻū, Hawaiʻi Island

Today, Trust for Public Land (TPL) transferred ownership and stewardship of Pōhue Bay to the National Park Service, preserving the area’s unique natural and cultural resources from development. The 16,451-acre parcel—from Māmalahoa Highway to the shoreline—is now part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.  

“Aloha ʻāina begins with our commitment to preserving our islands’ precious natural and cultural systems,” said Lea Hong, Associate Vice President, Hawaiian Islands State Director for Trust for Public Land. “We are grateful the National Park Service will steward the area with the community, ensuring the history, culture and natural beauty of this place are protected for future generations.” 

Trust for Public Land (TPL) purchased Pōhue Bay for over $9.4 million funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and an important donation by the Wyss Foundation. TPL transferred ownership and stewardship of Pōhue Bay to the National Park Service (NPS) so the area’s native ecosystems and cultural treasures would be well cared for and preserved in partnership with the surrounding community. TPL has also donated $800,000 to the Friends of Volcanoes National Park to support the National Park Service’s management of Pōhue Bay.  This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation.

Pōhue Bay has been the subject of several resort development proposals, however, community members identified the Pōhue Bay property as one of the highest priority acquisition/expansion areas in the Kaʻū Community Development Plan, and the acquisition of Pōhue Bay was recommended in the 2016 Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park General Management Plan

Pōhue Bay is home to numerous well-preserved and significant Hawaiian cultural sites, including the largest recorded abrader tool quarry in Hawaiʻi, lava tubes, a burial site, mauka-makai (mountain to sea) trails, fishing shrines, remains of once-thriving coastal villages, and unique petroglyphs dating from ancient times to the 19th century. A well-preserved portion of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail or Ala Loa, an ancient coastal trail system, hugs the coastline. These historic and invaluable cultural resources are now protected for future generations. 

Before the land transfer, NPS took proactive steps and met with community members in partnership with TPL and the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development (HACBED) to better understand the land's cultural, historical and ecological significance. This preliminary process will continue over the next several months. Until a Pōhue interim operating plan is completed, and safe access protective of cultural and natural resources can be ensured, public access is temporarily restricted. There are no bathroom facilities or capacity for trash removal, and emergency response is very limited. Portions of the current jeep trail and pedestrian routes to the coastline pass through private lands not managed by the park. 

“Pōhue is an incredibly precious and culturally significant landscape that needs to be protected. We are actively seeking community feedback to get a better understanding of the natural and cultural resources in the area,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “The park is working to develop an interim operating plan for Pōhue that explores opportunities for public use compatible with resource protection. We thank the community for your patience and for the manaʻo shared so far.”  

The Pōhue coastline is also critical habitat for federally listed endangered Hawaiian species, including the Hawaiian hawksbill turtle (honu‘ea) and Hawaiian monk seal. Rare endemic red shrimp live in the area’s anchialine ponds, and the bay is often frequented by native and migratory birds, including frigate birds (ʻiwa), white tailed tropic bird (koaʻe kea), golden plover (kōlea), wandering tattler (ʻūlili) and black crowned night heron (ʻaukuʻu). 

Since 1979, TPL has conserved over 59,000 acres and counting on the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Maui, and Moloka‘i. Through our land protection efforts we seek to engage local residents in safeguarding resources that are special and significant to their communities. Conserving lands that enhance trails and parks; protect food, forests and water; and create opportunities for Hawaiian land stewardship are our immediate priority. 

Media Kit 

About Trust for Public Land  

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org

About the National Park Service 

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. 

About the Wyss Foundation 

In 2018 Hansjörg Wyss and the Wyss Foundation met the nature crisis by launching the Wyss Campaign for Nature. Wyss has committed $1.5 billion to the Campaign before the end of this decade, supporting Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and nations in their efforts to protect 30% of the planet by 2030.