American novelist John Irving once said: “If you care about something, you have to protect it.” It’s a sentiment shared wholeheartedly by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT), which actively safeguards more than 17,500 acres of land across the state.

“As W.S. Merwin, who worked with HILT to conserve his palm forest, so eloquently put it: ‘you’re conserving the land for its own sake,’” said Matt Beall, owner of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers and a member of HILT’s board of directors. “It’s a simple, obvious, and ultimately fulfilling cause.”

HILT is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with private landowners, community groups, community leaders and government partners to protect land throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It was established in January 2011 when four existing organizations—the Kauai Public Land Trust, Oahu Land Trust, Maui Coastal Land Trust and Hawaii Island Land Trust—joined forces. Now, all four counties in the state are represented as one through the statewide land trust, which is devoted to the preservation of Hawaii’s precious natural resources and cultural heritage.

Among other things, HILT cares for coastal and forest preserves, holds conservation easements protecting farms, ranches, ancestral landscapes, native habitat, and critical watershed on privately-owned lands, and works with landowners to help them integrate conservation into their land use plans in perpetuity. And the nonprofit is in it for the long haul: HILT assumes responsibility for the protected lands currently in its care, as well as all future acquisitions—forever.

Now, more than ever, land conservation in Hawaii is vital, Beall said. “If there’s one thing I could impart that’s also hugely important, it would be that land stewardship is a hugely important—and an expensive—part of conservation. Especially in HILT’s case, where we’re tasked with the ongoing stewardship of over 17,500 acres across the state,” he said. “So, while of course we want to have the ability to help protect the next big land conservation opportunity, of which there are many, we also need to make sure that we are honoring the commitments that we’ve already made to protect these lands in perpetuity.”

That’s why Beall encourages others to support HILT in any way they can. You can become a member of HILT, make a financial contribution, or join the Na Koa Aina Distinguished Fellows program (a group of dedicated donors). You can also roll up your sleeves and help out with restoration and conservation projects, land stewardship, special events, or office tasks.

And on Saturday, Jan. 25, you can support HILT by attending the 19th annual Buy Back the Beach: Mālama Kīpuka fundraiser at the Old Lahaina Luau. The event brings together some of Hawaii’s top conservation advocates for an island-style feast under the stars. Guests will be treated to a luau dinner, complimentary cocktails, live and silent auctions and live entertainment by Ahumanu. The funds raised will provide much-needed operational support to ensure HILT can continue its efforts to protect coastal lands, historical and cultural landscapes, and working farms and ranches across Hawaii.

For more information about the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.hilt.org or email info@hilt.org. Tickets are still available for HILT’s Buy Back the Beach: Mālama Kīpuka fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Old Lahaina Luau (1251 Front St. in Lahaina). Individual tickets are available for $225 per person; table sponsorships are also available. To learn more about the event, to purchase tickets or sponsor a table, visit www.hilt.org/special-events-calendar/2018/buy-back-the-beach-maui.

The Maui News – January 13, 2020

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