The Saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii offers diverse terrain and resources for hunters, both at Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) and in nearby state lands. Hunters take pigs, sheep, goats and a variety of gamebirds by rifle, shotgun or archery.
The current Saddle Road traverses several hunting units. The Saddle Road Improvement Project would realign the road through PTA, affecting hunting in direct and indirect ways. Impacts to hunting have been considered throughout the EIS and design process, and minimization of adverse effects and incorporation of beneficial effects as part of mitigation have been important goals of the project. As a result, the overall impact to hunting conditions can be assessed as beneficial.
Most of the impact to hunting would be concentrated in the Humu`ula area of State of Hawai`i Hunting Unit E area within PTA (see map). This area contains about 4,400 acres of the total 36,500 acres available for hunting at PTA. The primary land use in this area is military training, and when training operations require, the area is closed for hunting. Despite its use in military training and the presence of numerous unpaved military and utility easement roads, the area provides excellent bird hunting. Very few mammals are taken from this area. It is adjacent to the cabins of Mauna Kea State Park and easily accessible, and thus encourages hunting for families, the elderly, and those without four-wheel drive vehicles. The right-of-way take and safety zone for the Saddle Road realignment would require taking about 192 acres out of hunting. The new road alignment would bisect Humu`ula instead of skirting it as the current road does, increasing accessibility for hunters but also reducing the remote feeling at the center of the unit. There would be no habitat fragmentation, because game bird behavior is not markedly affected by roads and the area supports only minimal mammal populations and mammal hunting.
Other minor adverse impacts during construction would be occasionally inconvenient access to hunting areas and game spooking. On a permanent basis, the entire Saddle will be more accessible to all recreational users, which is regarded by hunters as having both adverse and beneficial aspects.
As part of mitigation for taking of critical habitat of the Palila, a federally-listed endangered species, the Saddle Road project also involves a 10-year period during which management on several large state parcels would emphasize mamane forest restoration and management. Domestic and feral ungulates would be removed. The parcels are described below, along with the effects on hunting:
In summary, the project
would convert about 192 acres of military training land also used for hunting
to roadways and safety zones, would expand hunting opportunities on 1,740 acres
of land at Ka`ohe, and would open up 4,975 acres of new bird hunting area at
Pu`u Mali. Although both adverse and beneficial effects would occur, the overall
effect would be beneficial.