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Campaign Finance Consensus
Schools Consensus
Senate Passes Home Rule Bill Overwhelmingly
Vistas Lauds Hawaii LWV
View from a Husband
Legislative Log: Schools, Ethics
News Release... Ethics
Legislative Log: Campaign Finances, Land Use
Perspectives of Land Use
Call to State Convention - LWV-Hawaii

Perspectives of Land Use

The State of Hawaii includes 122 islands, but 98% of its land (between 4 and 4.1 million acres) is on the six major islands: Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai. A seventh island, Niihau, is privately owned. The eighth, Kahoolawe, is controlled by the U.S. government and used for military purposes.

What are Hawaii's lands used for and how do we know what lands are suitable for specific uses?

The 1957 Territorial Legislature enacted three important pieces of legislation dealing with land. One established a Territorial Planning Office and directed it to prepare a General Plan. The Second was the forest and water reserve zoning law; the third established the Land Study Bureau at the University of Hawaii to help answer these questions, by gathering, classifying, and distributing information on land characteristics (such as slope, type of soil, etc.), productivity, uses, and technical and economic changes affecting land uses. Land Study Bureau data is one of the basic sources available to State and County agencies with responsibility for making land use decisions.


The pie chart and accompanying comments about use of land in Hawaii are based on a Land Study Bureau publication, Y.Ching and T. Sahara, "Land Use and Productivity Rating, State of Hawaii, 1968 Land Study Bureau, Circular #15.

  1. As you can see, agriculture (in the broadest sense) is the main land use in Hawaii. However, only about 12% of land in agriculture is in plantation agriculture (sugar, pineapple) or diversifies crops (vegetables, orchards, pigs, chickens, dairy). The largest uses are forestry mostly forest. reserve; and grazing. Most lands in these uses are rated poor and very poor in agricultural productivity.

    200,000 acres, about 5% of total land area, is rated potentially good or better in productivity with irrigation. These lands are mostly on Molokai and Oahu. The island of Hawaii has the lowest percentage of land classified as suitable for agriculture (under 14%) and none of this is of the best quality

  2. The third largest land use is pali and barren land -12%. These are lands too steep for development or lacking in productive capacity. This does not include such lands within boundaries of national parks, game management areas, and forest reserve. This does not imply that these lands are worthless, they provide scenic and open space values. 84% of this category is on Hawaii.

  3. Land in urban use is about 4% of the total. Included are 74,429 acre zoned for urban use but not yet developed (in 1968) on Hawaii. If these lands are excluded, the greatest amount of land in urban use is on Oahu, and the greatest population density.

  4. Military use, excluding military housing is about 1% of the total, with 92% on Oahu. (This figure seems to bear little relationship to figures on lands owned, leased by or ceded to the military.)

  5. Miscellaneous - about 10% - includes national parks, game management areas, quarry.

As has been indicated, the distribution of various land uses vane greatly from island to island. Another point to be emphasized is that these figures do not correspond to the acreages of land in the four Land Use Districts as defined by the Land Use Commission. Such figures are not now available.

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