volcanic island, Maui county, Hawaii, U.S. It lies 6 miles (10 km) off the southwestern shore of Maui island, from which it is separated by the Alalakeiki Channel. It is 45 square miles (117 square km) in area (the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands) and rises to an elevation of 1,477 feet (450 metres) at Lua Makika, its highest point. Archaeological evidence reveals that the island was inhabited for more than 1,000 years, but it is now uninhabited. Kahoolawe was originally named for the Hawaiian god Kanaloa. From 1826 to 1853 the island was used as a penal colony by Hawaiian monarchs. In 1910 it became a forest reserve, but reforestation efforts were unsuccessful. Goats and sheep were introduced in the 19th century, and from 1941 to 1990 the island was used by the U.S. armed forces for munitions testing and bombing exercises, both of which further damaged the island's ecology. The state government took control of the island in 1994, and there have been efforts to rid the island of unexploded ordnance and to reintroduce native vegetation.
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