Ag park and GMO crops planned on land owned by the Army and private developer

March 23, 2011 

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation is seeking farmer tenants to lease farm lots in Kunia.  The land was formerly owned by Campbell Estate, but the Army and a private developer formed a partnership to buy the land and develop a portion of it for military housing.   Since the Army’s housing needs changed, much of the land is now being leased to Monsanto to grow GMO corn.   And a small portion is being offered by the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation for small farmers.

This whole story raises a number of red flags.  Why is the Army engaging in private real estate investment and development?  Although the Army changed its plans for housing, the original plans to acquire the land or undergo development was not announced to the public.   Environmental review for the acquisition and development of the land was not conducted.

The growing partnership between GMO agribusiness and the military in Hawai’i is also disturbing.  In Kaua’i, biotech firms have a special relationship with the Pacific Missile Range Facility to be able to farm within the special exclusion easement surrounding the base.   Did Monsanto or the Army conduct an environmental review for the establishment of GMO crops in this area?   What is the risk of genetic contamination from these crops? If the crops are engineered to produce intrinsic pesticides, what effects will it have on the environment, such as native insects or fish downstream?

The Ag park is a fine idea, but in the larger scheme of things, it is a fig leaf to cover the other deals being made.



Nonprofit plans agricultural park for local farmers

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation aims to have tenants on a Kunia site by year’s end

By Andrew Gomes

A nonprofit established three years ago to support farming in Hawaii plans to set up an agricultural park for small farmers in Kunia on land owned by the Army and a private development partner.

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation hopes to interest 10 or more local farmers in leasing the roughly 200-acre property formerly planted in pineapple and sugar cane.

Lease terms — including rents and the length of leases — have yet to be set, though the foundation aims to have initial tenants on the land by the end of the year, according to Dean Oki­moto, a Wai­ma­nalo farmer serving as the foundation’s president.

A groundbreaking ceremony at the site is scheduled for today.

The land is part of 2,400 acres the Army and development partner Lend Lease bought in 2008 from Campbell Estate for $32 million, according to property rec­ords.

Ann M. Choo Wharton, a spokes­woman for the Army-Lend Lease venture known as Island Palm Communities, said the Army initially planned to expand housing for nearby Schofield Barracks on a small piece of the property. But the Army’s housing needs changed, which prompted the landowners to seek tenants for the whole property.

Monsanto in 2009 leased 1,675 acres for 40 years to grow seed corn. The Army and Lend Lease have 680 acres available for lease and are considering possible renewable-energy uses on another piece of the land, Wharton said.

The roughly 200 acres for the ag park is part of what Monsanto leases. As part of the Monsanto lease, the Army and Lend Lease required that 10 percent of the land be made available to local farmers.

“When Monsanto first came to Kunia, we made a commitment to participating in community initiatives that would promote local agriculture,” said Fred Perlak, vice president of research and business operations for Monsanto in Hawaii.

Okimoto said Monsanto committed to help prepare the land for farming again, including providing assistance with clearing the site and neutralizing herbicide residue in the soil left over from past use.

Okimoto, who owns Nalo Farms, said the Kunia site is suitable for a wide variety of crops from tomatoes to pineapples.

“Almost anything will grow up there,” he said.

Honouliuli forest now a state reserve

June 4, 2010 

The Honouliuli forest in the Wai’anae mountains is a treasure trove for native species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.  This is also an area where the Army condemned about 2000 acres as part of its Stryker brigade expansion.   The Army has out planted endangered native plants in Honouliuli as part of its endangered species mitigation plan for Makua valley.  Since Army training in Makua has destroyed most of the forest in Makua and endangered the remaining stands of native forest, the Army collected, grew and out planted specimens of endangered plants into the Honouliuli forest reserve several miles away on the other side of the Wai’anae mountains as insurance against extinction in Makua.  Now Stryker expansion into the Honouliuli reserve may threaten the out plantings of endangered species.

The Army contributed $2.7 million from the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program toward the purchase of the land.   The Army Compatible USe Buffer Program was established to support conservation zones near military training areas as a buffer against “encroachment” by human activity or residences. While the conservation sounds like a good idea, it helps the Army to continue its destructive training activities in adjacent lands.  In the case of the Honouliuli reserve, the conservation land now “buffers” the severely impacted training areas in Lihu’e (Schofield Range), where important Native Hawaiian cultural complexes have been damaged, including the Haleauau Heiau, and where iwi kupuna (human remains) were recently desecrated by Army construction activities.


Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oahu’s Honouliuli Forest Reserve now state-protected

Slopes above Kunia provide water, wildlife haven

By Eloise Aguiar

Advertiser Staff Writer

KUNIA — More than 3,500 acres of lowland forest in the Wai’anae Range that are a prime source of O’ahu’s drinking water and home to dozens of endangered species are now protected thanks to a purchase involving a federal, state and private partnership.

The Honouliuli Forest Reserve was purchased by the Trust For Public Land from the James Campbell Co. LLC and added to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ forest reserve for watershed and habitat protection.

The reserve served as a backdrop to a gathering in the Kunia foothills of the mountain range yesterday as about 200 people celebrated the completion of the five-year effort.

Dignitaries, staff of state and federal agencies, private organizations and volunteers attended, including U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, state Rep. Marcus Oshiro and Tad Davis, the Army deputy assistant secretary for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.

‘Singing’ snails

The Trust For Public Land raised $4.3 million for the property: $2.7 million from the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program, $627,000 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Program and $980,000 from the Hawai’i Legacy Land Conservation Fund. The fund gets 10 percent of Hawai’i's real estate conveyance tax.

“The most important reason why it’s worth preserving is because it feeds O’ahu’s largest drinking water aquifer ,” said Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands program director for the Trust For Public Land. “The water we drink and use to water our plants and grow our crops comes from the Pearl Harbor aquifer, which is fed by this watershed at the Honouliuli Forest Reserve.”

The reserve is also home to 35 threatened and endangered species, including 16 found nowhere else in the world, Hong said. The O’ahu ‘elepaio, a bird that is a symbol of Hawaiian canoe making, lives there, along with the endangered “singing” kahuli tree snail, she said.

The goal of the Trust For Public Land is to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places.

More expenses

In Hawai’i, it has helped preserve such places as Moanalua Valley, Pūpūkea-Paumalu and Ma’o Organic Farm. The Honouliuli purchase is among the organization’s largest on O’ahu.

Speakers at the event thanked the many people who worked to bring about the sale and preservation.

But Laura Thielen, who heads the DLNR, also challenged the policymakers to find ways to fund the management of the land.

The reserve will open new demands for trails, gathering places and cultural site access, Thielen said.

“We’re going to need your help,” she said. “You did such a wonderful job on the acquisition and I’d like to challenge all of you to spend the next 10 years on focusing on the management of these places.”

The Army spends about $500,000 a year on management of the land, and an endowment will be established at the Hawai’i Community Foundation to support the state’s management there. Pledges to the fund are $295,000 from The Nature Conservancy, $25,000 from the Gill Family Trusts and $25,000 from the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Forest reviving

Tony Gill, of Gill Ewa Lands LLC, spoke for his family about a two-centuries-long journey for the reserve.

Some 200 years ago, the area was a thriving native forest, Gill said. By 150 years ago, with no eye toward conservation, the trees had been taken and the forest devastated. By the time the Campbells took over 130 to 140 years ago, most of the area was grass, he said.

The Campbells began to reforest the area and got help from the government and the Civilian Conservation Corps, he said. Today the mountain range is covered with forest, and water is returning, but the land isn’t as it once was, Gill said.

“Starting today and for the next 150 years, the Gill family and the Olson family, working with the state and DOFAW (DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife), will do what we can to replenish the mountainside as it once was with native species,” he said, “because that is where our heart is.”

Reach Eloise Aguiar at