NARS Commission to Gain Hawaiian Cultural Expert
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by Dave Smith
A bill that establishes a native Hawaiian cultural presence on the appointed commission overseeing the state’s Natural Area Reserves System has been signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
House Bill 941, which on Wednesday became Act 4, deals with the part of state law establishing the makeup of the Natural Area Reserves System Commission.
The panel’s 13 members include five representatives from various state departments, including the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which provides support for the commission, and the University of Hawaii.
It also has six members with scientific qualifications in natural sciences and one representative each with membership in hiking and hunting organizations.
The bill passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature removes one of the administrators, the state superintendent of education, and replaces it with “a person possessing a background in native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices.”
The bill had the strong backing of the DLNR, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
“Adding a cultural expert to the NARS Commission will mitigate any conflicts with traditional and cultural practices, help to better identify and preserve cultural sites and resources, and otherwise improve the overall effectiveness of both the NARS Commission and the NARS Program,” OHA said in testimony submitted to lawmakers.
Hawaii’s Natural Area Reserves System, commonly known as NARS, was established to preserve examples of the state’s unique biological ecosystems, geological formations and archaeological sites.
NARS currently consists of 19 reserves on five islands encompassing more than 109,000 acres. It includes marine and coastal environments, lava flows and tropical rainforests.
One of the reserves is the nearly 4,000-acre Mauna Kea Ice Age reserve, an alpine desert environment on the mountain’s southern summit flank containing key biological, archaeological and geological features, including Lake Waiau.
Waiau is the state’s only alpine lake and the seventh highest lake in the US — the only one in the top dozen outside of Colorado.