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The Power of Partnerships

The Maui Coastal Land Trust brings together many in the name of conservation.


Photo by Jessica Pearl

Through the Maui Coastal Land Trust, Dale Bonar has helped protect 1,000 acres of land on Maui and Molokai from development.

“This is the most amazing thing,” says Dale Bonar, PH.D., “the fact that there will never be houses there.” He sweeps his finger across the horizon, indicating the mist-shrouded West Maui Mountains in the distance. The 277-acre Waihee preserve extends from the emerald cliffs to the rocky beach that lies beneath Bonar’s feet. But the terrain is a mere sliver of the land Bonar has protected in a career devoted to conserving coastal areas.

Bonar secured the Waihee preserve shortly after he became executive director of the nonprofit Maui Coastal Land Trust (MCLT) in 2002 following work with the National Land Trust alliance in Seattle. MCLT makes partners out of private landowners, neighborhoods, community groups and government agencies to protect lands from potential development. With the help of Bonar and others, MCLT has secured more than 1,000 acres of Maui and Molokai, with a total preservation value of $24 million.

The Waihee preserve is the crown jewel of Bonar’s accomplishment at MCLT. Stretching from Waihee Point to Waihee Beach Park, it is home to endangered animals and plants, an ancient fishing village, a heiau and an extensive burial site. The acreage was acquired for perpetual stewardship through agreements with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, Maui County, Ducks Unlimited and others.

Plans for the area include an educational center for students and volunteers, restoration of an inland fishpond and the replanting of taro loi, to be funded by the permanent endowment that was started and is maintained by MCLT.

These efforts helped to shape the career that won Bonar a prestigious Hookele award in September. The Hawaii Community Foundation bestows the honor to “recognize the significant and often less visible role that a nonprofit leader plays in improving the quality of life for Hawaii’s people.” He and four other recipients were given $10,000 each for both professional development and personal renewal.

Bonar draws inspiration from the countless days he spent on the beaches of Oahu as a kid. “I grew up in the water,” said Bonar. “I learned to swim before I could walk.”

Bonars work ensures that future generations will be able to connect to the cultural and environmental richness of Hawaii. “A lot of wonderful things are given to us,” he says. “Living here is a gift. That in itself has been a tremendous reward.”

Mira Allen writes from her home in the rain-drenched jungle of Haiku, Maui.

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Honolulu Magazine April 2017
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