PALMYRA SALE SPARKS KINGMAN REEF DISPUTE

admin's picture

By Jan TenBruggencate

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (December 15, 2000 – Honolulu Advertiser)---Plans for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire Kingman Reef as a nature refuge may run into a snag over who actually owns it.

A federal draft environmental assessment for the refuge makes no mention of the Fullard-Leo family, which says it laid claim to the reef and its three small coral islets many years ago and brought it under the jurisdiction of the United States. The reef was unclaimed land, said Honolulu real estate agent Peter Savio, who represents the family.

"The family paid property taxes on it for many years," Savio said.

Kingman Reef is a roughly triangular reef with a central lagoon. It is about 10 miles from east to west and four miles from north to south. Its coral reef resources are said to be among the most pristine in the Pacific.

Kingman and the neighboring atoll of Palmyra were considered part of Hawai‘i until they were left out of the boundaries of the state at statehood.

The Fullard-Leo family sold Palmyra earlier this year to the Nature Conservancy. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to buy most of the atoll from the conservancy, leaving only the main area of dry land, Cooper Island, under conservancy ownership.

A draft environmental assessment for the establishment of refuse at Palmyra has not been made final. Congress has appropriated $9.25 million for the federal purchase of the Palmyra property.

Savio said the federal government discussed also buying Kingman, which is about 35 miles north of Palmyra, during the Palmyra purchase negotiations, but the family declined to sell it. He said he was surprised to learn that the Fish and Wildlife Service now claims it is federal land.

The reef has been under the jurisdiction of the Navy since World War II, and there have been discussions of the Navy giving it up.

"At such time as Kingman Reef is no longer needed for military purposes and the Navy terminates its military use, the Department of the Interior would regain full jurisdiction," says the draft environmental assessment for Kingman.

Savio said the service might have to deal with the private owners first.

First and Wildlife Service representative Barbara Maxfield said the service issues draft environmental assessments in order to catch errors and omissions. She said the service is prepared to sit down with the Fullard-Leos to discuss the situation.

For additional reports from The Honolulu Advertiser, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Honolulu Advertiser.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Add new comment