Island Businessman Ed Olson Donates $500,000 to Protect Big Island Forests: Former Developer Quietly Doing Good to Protect Hawaii’s Environment

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Edmund C. Olson

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





  1. I am very privileged to be able to call Ed Olson my Grandfather! He is a wonderful man who is very dedicated to the things he loves. He is an inspiration to me, he represents Strength. Thank you for being so strong and the back bone to so many successful creations, from business to family. He represents Courage, Thank you for having the courage to take the risks you took for everything and everyone! And the last of very many Loyality! Thank you for being so loyal to your family and everyone else. Without Mr. Ed Olson this side of the world would not be so happy! Thank you Jennifer Ingram

  2. Mr. Ed Olson is one of the most generous, caring and soulful people that I have ever had the pleasure to meet and work for. His help literally changed my life and I really appreciate and admire that that he has build with so much hard work and dedication. Mr. Olson is an inspiration to me and I look forward to following his example of living life to its fullest and I miss hanging out with him in Hawaii over a pizza and beer, now that I am in Canada.

    I hope Mr. Olson and his entire family are doing great. If you guys read this, please tell Mr. Olson that Fernando from Kahala (now vancouver) is sending his biggest ALoha!

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