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  • Writer's pictureHawai'i House Democrats

Hawai‘i State Legislature Passes Measures to Steward and Protect Hawai‘i’s Natural Resources

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – During the 2022 legislative session, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature passed key measures to protect Hawai’i's natural resources.

"Ten (10) bills and the budget adopted by the 2022 Legislature will make meaningful changes to protect Hawaii's natural resources from the top of Mauna Kea to our oceans. Safeguarding what makes Hawaiʻi unique is critical for our residents and visitors now and for generations to come," said Representative David A. Tarnas (District 7: North Kohala, South Kohala, North Kona), Chair of the House Committee on Water and Land.

  1. HB 2024 establishes and provides $14 million for an alternative management framework for Mauna Kea which will include Native Hawaiians in the management decisions for Mauna Kea, and provide support for astronomy that is consistent with a mutual stewardship paradigm in which ecology, the environment, natural resources, cultural practices, education, and science are in balance and synergy.

  2. HB 1768 exempts instream use of water for traditional and customary kalo cultivation practices from the existing process for disposition of water rights.

  3. HB 1436 expands the authority of counties to transfer development rights to address areas at risk of sea level rise, coastal erosion, storm surge, or flooding associated with climate change.

  4. HB 1672 authorizes counties to establish Special Improvement Districts for the purpose of environmental research, restoration, and maintenance; natural resource management; and natural hazard mitigation to improve environmental conditions and provide community benefits.

  5. SB 204 authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to use in-lieu fee mitigation to restore, create, enhance, and preserve aquatic habitats or resources as compensatory mitigation for aquatic resources lost by adverse impacts to other similar aquatic habitats, including damage to coral reefs and wetlands.

  6. HB 1653 increases penalties for violations of aquatic resource laws and rules.

  7. SB 3767 provides $350,000 to DLNR for the statewide fish aggregation buoy program.

  8. SB 3379 provides $525,000 to the Department of Agriculture for a biosecurity program at ports of entry to prevent alien invasive species from entering the State.

  9. SB 2768 authorizes DLNR and provides $5 million to establish and fund the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, which provides temporary work and training opportunities to young people in the fields of natural resource management, agriculture, and other sustainability-related professions.

  10. SB 573 requires all Habitat Conservation Plans to include an agreement for plan participants to enter into an annual service contract with a facility that can provide emergency medical treatment and long-term rehabilitation services to native wildlife affected by activities undertaken within the plan area, such as wind farms which have an incidental take permit allowing them to injure or kill protected birds or bats.

Other budget highlights (HB 1600) for programs relevant to the House Water and Land Committee:

  • $500,000 plus three additional positions to DLNR for the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission.

  • $8 million to DLNR for watershed protection projects statewide.

  • Establishing and funding two new positions in the DLNR Na Ala Hele program to expand public access trails system statewide, and an additional $2 million for trail restoration.

  • Establishing and funding 28 new positions in DLNR State Parks.

  • Increasing the expenditure ceiling for the DLNR State Parks Special Fund by $12 million so that the park system can use revenues, primarily derived from non-resident visitor fees, for park maintenance and improvement.

  • $300,000 and one new position to DLNR's hatchery program to provide fingerlings and limu for restoration and restocking of fishponds.

  • $1.5 million for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, plus $500,000 for DLNR to control little fire ants.



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