Upper Kipahulu Valley consists of two moderately sloping valleys, or broad expanses, each bounded by steep sidewalls and separated by a central pali-escarpment. In 1967 a group of scientists sponsored by The Nature Conservancy made a preliminary exploration of the remote valley. They discovered rare native Hawaiian birds, one previously considered extinct (the Nukupuu), and made sightings of the very rare Maui Parrotbill. Ninety percent of the plants they recorded were native. They found 75 species of ferns and fern-allies, all but one native to Hawaii, and recorded a dozen species of native lobelias, all unique to Hawaii. They concluded that the valley was outstanding from a botanical and ecological standpoint and should be preserved.
Through effort of TNC and Laurance Rockefeller Kipahulu was added to Haleakala National Park. The upper valley is currently managed as a scientific preserve with entry restricted to resource managers and scientists conducting management and studies deemed necessary for preservation of Kipahulu's native ecosystems