Voluntary Long-Term Protection of Agricultural Land in Hawaii

2010 Annual Report for SW09-102

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $82,814.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Christopher Lepczyk
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Voluntary Long-Term Protection of Agricultural Land in Hawaii


The project has made good progress in implementing educational workshops for landowners and personnel from agencies that work with landowners about the purpose and process of utilizing conservation easements to protect agricultural land. Two workshops have already been held, and two more are scheduled in the next two months. On the research side, a draft survey questionnaire and sample design have been developed and are expected to be approved soon. Survey enumeration is expected to start in March 2011.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Determine the value/significance of incentives to producers and landowners to participate in voluntary agricultural land protection programs.

2. Promote lands program to produce long-term protection of agricultural land.

3. Develop alternative prioritization strategies that can be used to target funds for acquiring agricultural conservation easements.

4. Educate stakeholders; including government officials, non-profit staff, agricultural professionals and landowners about the value and impact of voluntary agricultural land protection programs in Hawaii.


What work has been accomplished to date?

The project did not get off the ground until early 2010. A graduate student was hired effective February 1, 2010. The subcontract with Oahu RC&D was finalized in March 2010.

1) A graduate student, Noe Aberjon, was recruited to help implement the UH component of the project. In the first year he has reviewed the literature for previous studies of agricultural land protection, collected information on easement and IAL programs in Hawaii, created training materials for the island workshops and developed the project website.

2) Review of literature.

A literature review was conducted to update the review conducted when preparing the grant application. The latest review focuses on publications reporting findings from surveys.

3) Collection of information on case studies of easement projects.

Interviews were performed with Maui Costal Land Trust (MCLT)and Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC), holders of five of the eight agricultural easements in the State of Hawaii. We are in the process of interviewing the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the holders of the other three easements. The landowners will also be interviewed, as well as someone from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). So far, the most unexpected findings are those related to the initial approach and incentives of the easements. There is no general strategy, i.e. cluster of band strategy of the land-trusts to target lands for agricultural easements. The agencies work on every case/owner that approaches them. The situation may change because it what has historically been multiple land trusts working separately or in collaboration soon will be one land trust with the creation of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT), that merges Maui Coastal Land Trust (MCLT), Kauai Public Land Trust (KPLT), Oahu Land Trust (OLT) and Hawaiian Island Land Trust. We will closely follow this merger and the general strategies towards agricultural conservation easements.

4) Collection of information on Hawaii Important Agricultural Land program implementation.

The identification and designation of Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) was first proposed at the 1978 Constitutional Convention and subsequently approved by voters in the same year. Enacted as Article XI, Section 3, of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii, the State is required to conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands. Act 183 (2005) ruled about definition, characteristics, identification and general objectives of the legislation regarding Important Agricultural Lands (IAL). The legislation process was completed with Act 233 (2008) that recognized and approved the incentives to landowners.

The legislation establishes that, at least until next summer, there is a voluntary adherence to the designation. There is only one owner that has completed the whole process and has lands in two islands designated as IAL. The State of Hawaii-Land Use Commission recognized in 2009 3,773 acres on the island of Kauai owned by Alexander and Baldwin INC. as IAL. The same owner is about to have recognized (the process is in its last stage) 27,104 acres on the island of Maui. Aside from Alexander and Baldwin INC., Castle and Cooke Homes Hawaii INC. and Molokai Properties Limited have recently filed petitions for 902 and 4,919 acres on Oahu and Molokai respectively.

A fact sheet on the Hawaii IAL program was developed for the island workshops. IAL acceptance and implementation is being monitored and will be an active part of the surveys.

5) Development of survey instrument.

The survey instrument is still in a draft stage. The questionnaire and sampling methodology will be presented to the M.Sc. graduate committee of Noe Aberjon in February 2011.

6) Conducted two island workshops for stakeholders on use of conservation easements.

7)Developed training materials and fact sheets. The following training materials and fact sheets were produced for use in the workshops:

– Fact sheet on Hawaii’s Important Agricultural Lands program (Three pages)

– Summary of Agricultural Easements Already Implemented (One page)

– Descriptions of Selected Agricultural Easements Implemented (One page each):

• Ulupalakua Ranch, Maui
• Pu’u O Hoku Ranch, Molokai
• Kainalu Ranch, Molokai
• Kukaiau Ranch, Hawaii Island
• Sunset Ranch, Oahu

-Matrix of Federal and State of Hawaii Incentive Programs for Land Management on Private Lands (Ten pages)

8) Offered two (2) workshops highlighting the use of conservation easements to protect agricultural land:

• Oahu: Held 9/13/10 at Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in Kunia. 54 participants.

• Hawaii: Held 9/28/10 at Anna Ranch Heritage Center in Waimea. 50 participants.

The Oahu RC&D coordinated the development of the workshops under a subcontract. They submitted a progress report (included on CD) on December 1, 2010 that includes the agendas and the participant evaluation of these two workshops. The principal speakers were administrators of programs that fund or manage conservation easements, including the Trust for Public Lands, The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Legacy Land Conservation Program, county land trusts and open space preservation programs and landowners who have completed the process of selling or donating a conservation easement.

Workshop evaluations from participants were near unanimous in agreeing or strongly agreeing with statements about the workshop achieving its purposes.

9) Development of a project website.

The project web page (http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/AgLand) was designed to create a user-friendly interface that allows experts and regular landowners to consult information about all voluntary long-term state and federal programs, along with helpful contact information. It also incorporates the information on the IAL implementation and the ongoing research. PowerPoint presentations and handouts from the workshops are being placed on the site. The case studies of completed agricultural conservation easements will be added when finished. There is also a “ask the experts” tab which allows the user to ask any question related to protection programs and receive an answer from a knowledgeable expert.

What work is left to do?

a) Offer remaining workshops highlighting the use of conservation easements to protect agricultural land:

• Kauai: Tentatively scheduled for February 17, 2011.
• Maui: Tentatively scheduled for March 16, 2011.
• Molokai: On hold due to lack of interest from Molokai Land Trust.

b) Finalize five case studies of producers that have completed easements.

c) Maintain and expand the project website for disseminating information.

d) Develop and pre-test the instruments for personal interviews and conduct 120 personal interviews.

e) Analyze interview information and data collected.

f) Prepare and present two scholarly papers at professional conferences.

g) Conduct statewide workshop.

h) Prepare extension research report.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The workshops are educating landowners and agencies that assist landowners about the status of conservation easement tools. This should lead to increased use of conservation easements to provide long-term protection of agricultural land in Hawaii. This will help producers maintain their agricultural enterprises in the face of high and increasing land costs.


Dr. Christopher Lepczyk

Associate Professor
University of Hawaii
Department of NREM
1910 East West Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Office Phone: 8089562617