The Kawaikapu Preserve was the first fee owned parcel of Moloka`i Land Trust. The purchase was made possible with funding from DLNR Legacy Lands Conservation Program, Maui County Open Space Fund, Ke Aupuni Lokahi, and cooperation from the landowner, the Gordon Family. Comprising 196.4 acres, Kawaikapu contains a perennial stream and remnant native forest cover on its upper reaches. Kawaikapu translates literally as “the sacred water”. Approximately 70% of the acreage is covered by non native species and is slated for conversion to native forest cover with help from local community members and organizations. The valley is rich in cultural history as the site of an extensive taro loi complex, with sites scattered throughout the lower watershed. MLT consults with is Kawaikapu Advisory Council, residents in the ahupuaa, on the activities in the Preserve.
Ohia/Hapuu Forest Restoration
In 2010, Molokai Land Trust entered into a contract with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to restore 1.6 acres of degraded ohia forest at the 1450’ elevation point on the Preserve. Work to remove invasive species and replant ohia, hapuu, maile, akia, aalii, palaa fern and others within the protected site. Plans to expand the restoration are in the making to convert adjacent degraded lands back to their former native state. Kawaikapu offers educational opportunities for local school children, and forest gathering for local cultural groups.
An archaeological survey was conducted on the Preserve in 2010, describing the large dryland taro loi and housing complex that fills the base of the valley. The site is basically continuous from the lower boundary of the preserve near sea level, up to about 600’ elevation. Scattered habitations occur further upstream.
Historical subsistence activities on the Kawaikapu Preserve included predominantly forest gathering activities. Other activities in more modern times included hunting of pig and axis deer. MLT has set up and Pass System for the residents of Molokai to access the Preserve for subsistence usage.