Protecting Our Working Ag Lands

Working ag lands, Hana Ranch, Maui As the conversation about Hawai‘i’s food sustainability hits a crescendo, here’s a ravishing idea: land conservation can play an increasingly vital role in securing—and forever protecting—agricultural lands for our working farms and ranches. In fact, of the 17,500 acres Hawaiian Islands Land Trust currently protects, 93% are agrarian.

Non-political by design, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is a non-profit organization committed to working with private landowners, community groups, community leaders and government partners to protect Hawai‘i’s precious places. Using a variety of tools, we help landowners integrate conservation into their land use plans in perpetuity.

Quite often the main barrier to sustaining agriculture in Hawai‘i is the price of land. Because of high demand for real estate, the cost of undeveloped land can be astronomically high—hundreds of times more than agricultural activity could economically support. Plus, with land values that have skyrocketed in the last few decades, it’s increasingly harder for family-run farms to pencil out paying hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars in property taxes. 

Conservation/ agricultural easements were used by Hana Ranch and Ulupalakua Ranch, both members of Maui Cattle Company, to protect their lands. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement in which the landowner permanently limits the type and amount of development that can take place on a parcel of land. This agreement requires the Land Trust to protect the land forever, even when ownership of the land changes. Sometimes, the Land Trust purchases a conservation easement. More often, however, a landowner will donate an easement in order to place protective restrictions on future uses of their land.

Please take a few minutes to enjoy this slideshow and learn about our work to preserve our island’s agricultural lands.