Preserving Cultural Heritage Through Maui Coastal Land Trust

Preserving coastal lands is essential for safeguarding cultural and historical resources, such as traditional fish ponds, heiau, and burial sites. Government agencies alone cannot do much in this regard, so the Kauai Public Land Trust, the Oahu Land Trust, the Maui Coastal Land Trust (MCLT), and the Island of Hawaii Land Trust have joined forces to form a single entity. The headquarters of this new group is located in Maui. Project director Scott Fisher, land manager James Crowe, and educational coordinator Denby Freeland-Cole often bring volunteers and schoolchildren to visit the sites, work the land, and learn.

A few days before the art exhibition, the MCLT announced its merger with three other Hawaiian land trusts to form the Hawaii Islands Land Trust (HILT). This unified front will ensure a future for the conservation of public and private lands across the state. The HILT has expressed its appreciation to the Hawaii Life Charitable Fund, Hawai'i Life's real estate agents, Hawai'i Life's clients and their charitable fund sponsors for their generous contribution to the protection and perpetuation of Hawaii's natural and cultural heritage. The HILT office at the Maui headquarters is staffed by talented, experienced, and dedicated individuals such as outreach director Sara Smith, operations manager Monica George, and development director Kathleen Buenger. Sometimes, land trusts purchase land themselves with the goal of allowing public access to it.

The HILT has already protected more than 17,000 acres at 20 different sites. Under the direction of Executive Director Dale Bonar and his board of directors, the MCLT has been responsible for facilitating the permanent protection of more than 14,000 acres of land in Maui County from future subdivisions and developments. This plan provides a framework for identifying priorities for the conservation of coastal and estuarine lands and defines the process of acquiring such lands. Land trust organizations are also responsible for working with state and private entities, raising funds, managing protections, conducting inspections, and ensuring that the terms of agreements are met. These agreements reduce wealth taxes and allow land to be transmitted from generation to generation. The MCLT is a success story of a local “nonprofit organization” that is making a difference in preserving cultural heritage through conservation efforts.

The art exhibition featured a collection of works directly inspired by a decade of land conservation by the MCLT.

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