(HONOLULU) – Nearing the top of the popular Hawai‘iloa Ridge Trail in East O‘ahu look to your right and take in Pia Valley. This 300-acre parcel of rainforest in the southern Ko‘olau mountains will now be protected forever, thanks to a generous donation.
The Pia Valley parcel includes habitat for a diverse set of plants and animals. The donation by landowner Patricia Godfrey removes the land from private hands and makes it public land managed by DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).
It is expected the area will be designated as the Pia Natural Area Reserve (NAR), which would be accessible by foot and could be visited for recreational uses, hiking, and education.
The donated land is east of the trail and extends to the summit ridge of the Ko‘olau. It encompasses upper portions of Pia valley, directly upland of the Hawai‘iloa and Niu Valley subdivisions. Some plants and animals in the proposed Pia NAR are found nowhere else in the world.
Patricia Godfrey, the donating landowner, said, “I’m just a tiny link in a chain of many, many people who have worked to keep this land preserved for the animals and plants. It was a lucky moment when I was able to step in and hold the property for the State for a few years.”
“This donation of 300 acres is extraordinarily generous,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “We are very grateful to the Godfrey family for dedicating this land to the public, allowing the State to protect this watershed, which contains plants and animals known nowhere else.”
“This will leave an incredible legacy,” said Christopher Miller, DOFAW’S O‘ahu NAR Manager. “As a NAR, we will strive to keep the native forest as intact as possible. This forest is threatened by invasive species, which can lead to increased erosion, so our efforts to keep the Pia Valley as a native forest will also benefit all those who enjoy Maunalua Bay.”
On a recent trip up the trail and overlooking the Pia Valley, DOFAW Watershed Planner Katie Ersbak observed, “The rare, threatened, and endangered species that occupy this valley is why we were very interested in protecting it. As others have commented we hope to bring it into the Natural Area Reserve system, which is a special designation for places high in biological diversity, have rare species in native forests and have watershed recharge value as well.”
DOFAW O‘ahu botanist Susan Ching remarked, “We hope to make this beautiful area even better by actively managing the ecosystem for native plants, birds, and animals. The area does have impacts from invasive plants, predators and pigs.”
Asked about her impressions of Pia Valley, Godfrey said, “My impressions are that it is priceless…absolutely priceless. I am delighted to have been able to play a part in securing the future of Pia Valley as a protected wilderness. On behalf of myself and my family I would like to thank our state conservationists and all who protect and defend our vital wild lands and the sanctuary they provide for their plant and animal inhabitants.“