HONOLULU, HAWAII —An island businessman who began his career in construction and as a developer is quietly becoming one of the state’s leading conservationists.
Edmund C. Olson, chairman of A-American Storage Management Co., Inc., the 7th largest self storage company in the country, has donated $500,000 to The Nature Conservancy for forest conservation on the island of Hawai‘i.
“This is a significant gift for The Nature Conservancy, especially considering the current economic climate. We truly appreciate Ed Olson’s support,” stated Suzanne Case, Hawai‘i executive director for The Nature Conservancy.
Specifically, the funds will be used to protect the native forests of Ka‘ū and South Kona, which provide critical habitat for many of the island’s endangered forest birds.
“Ed’s gift reflects his love for Hawai‘i, and particularly his love for the Big Island,” said John Henshaw, the Conservancy’s Director of Land Protection and Conservation Partnerships. “Ed believes strongly in being a good steward of the land, and in preserving our agricultural and conservation heritage.”
Olson’s donation is the latest in a series of gifts that have benefitted island conservation and agricultural interests. In 2009, he partnered with Hawaii’s prominent Gill family to acquire 6,500 acres in the Wai‘anae Mountains from the James Campbell Company—a $19 million purchase whose intent was to keep the land in agricultural and preservation uses.
Part of that purchase included the 3,500-acre Honouliuli Preserve, then managed by The Nature Conservancy. The preserve was sold to the Trust for Public Land for $4 million and transferred to the State of Hawai‘i. It is now known as the Honouliuli Forest Reserve.
Late last year, Olson entered into a voluntary conservation easement agreement with the newly formed Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to protect two other agricultural parcels: 1,276 acres on the slopes of the Wai‘anae Mountains and 907 acres at Honu‘apo on the Big Island.
Conditions of the two permanent conservation easements prevent development, including multiple residences, commercial structures, roads or power lines. They also safeguard the property’s numerous cultural sites and pockets of healthy wildlife habitats.
It was the second time Olson has helped preservation interests in Honu‘apo. In 2006, he donated $50,000 through the Trust for Public Land to protect the area’s historic fishponds.
Olson began his business career in the early 1950s and has been a pioneer in many aspects of the construction business, including owning the largest Gunite company in the country. He started A-American Self Storage in 1973, and since then has developed millions of dollars worth of industrial, office and self-storage projects. His company has owned as many as 110 self-storage sites in Hawai‘i, California, Nevada and Illinois.
Olson, who divides his time between Los Angeles and Hawai‘i, first came to the islands in 1959. “He fell in love with the place and has had business interests here ever since,” said Henshaw.
Now 80, Olson has two Hawai‘i Island homes, one in Hilo, the other in Pahala, where he is active in the community. He is a partner in O.K. Farms LLC, located on Hawai‘i Island, which produces coffee, macadamia nuts, honey, tropical fruits, avocados, citrus and hearts of palm. He also has many other agricultural interests in the Ka‘ū area.
A member of the Hawai‘i advisory board of The Trust for Public Land, Olson owns more than 13,000 acres on the Big Island and almost 3,000 acres on O‘ahu. Most of his Big Island property is Ka‘ū agricultural lands located below the forest lands that his gift will help protect.
Said Olson: “I invite other people to support The Nature Conservancy in its important quest to protect Hawaii’s native forests and fresh water supplies. Their work and their successes benefit everyone in Hawai‘i.”
Submitted by Grady Timmons, Communications Director, The Nature Conservancy