Story by Judy Edwards | Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Islands Land Trust
When I stop by the funky-chic Wailuku offices of Maui Coastal Land Trust, I find a positively buoyant Dale Bonar. As executive director, Bonar has steered the “Little Trust That Could” from its first heady days in 2002, when MCLT worked with Hana Ranch to place forty acres in conservation easement. Two years later, Bonar oversaw the acquisition of the former Waihe‘e Dairy, now Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetland Refuge. In a decade of collaboration with private landowners and government agencies, MCLT has shepherded nearly 15,000 acres of open space on Maui and Moloka‘i into protection. Forever.
Now MCLT has merged with three other conservation organizations—Hawai‘i Island Land Trust, O‘ahu Land Trust and Kaua‘i Public Land Trust—to create a new statewide entity, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, with a combined 17,420 acres in conservation. Maui, the only trust with a fully staffed office, will serve as headquarters.
“Being a statewide unit,” Bonar notes, “opens the door to a lot more support from mainland funders,” who expect entities with overlapping missions to pool their talents and energy. “The boards of our four organizations will become local councils, representing their individual islands and sending members to serve on HILT’s board of directors.”
With HILT’s magnified reach, Bonar foresees greater gains for preserving wilderness and open spaces throughout Hawai‘i.
“When we closed on Waihe‘e—that was a pretty magic moment. I go out there now and know whatever I see is what the grandkids will see.”