ADVERSE AND BENEFICIAL
IMPACTS TO HUNTING FROM SADDLE ROAD IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
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
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:
- Conversion of 4,975 acres
at Pu`u Mali from grazing lease. The area is currently not open to hunting.
The State intends to permit bird hunting, which is consistent with mamane
forest restoration. This would provide 4,975 new acres of hunting.
- Conversion of a grazing
lease on 1,740 acres at Ka`ohe. The property currently supports hunting during
limited period in the bird hunting season. As a result of the project, it
could be open during the entire bird season.
- The removal of feral
ungulates on 3,000 acres at Kipuka Alala. Because this area is within PTA
and is not (and has never been) open for hunting, there would be no loss of
hunting area. Ongoing census and tagging programs by wildlife biologists have
revealed that the mammal populations found here have minimal interaction with
other populations in adjacent hunting areas. There is no evidence that adverse
effects to hunting in other areas would occur as a result of removing feral
ungulates at Kipuka Alala.
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.