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Sen. Hirono Urges Swift Passage of Bipartisan Public Lands Package

February 6, 2019, 4:09 PM HST
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Sen. Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, to urge the swift passage of S.47, the Natural Resources Management Act. The sweeping bipartisan public lands package includes, among other critical Hawai‘i priorities, a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, legislation to expand Conservation Corps programs like KUPU, and legislation Sen. Hirono introduced in the 115th Congress to expand and improve volcano monitoring across the country.

From Sen. Hirono’s remarks:

On the Importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund for Hawai‘i:

“The Natural Resources Management Act is a great example of what the Senate can accomplish when we come together on a bipartisan basis to get things done. Although we certainly have disagreements on energy and climate policy, a broad bipartisan consensus supports strengthening and expanding conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund—a program whose transformative impact is felt in every state in our country.

“Over the past 50 years, the LWCF has provided nearly $250 million in funding for Hawai‘i to protect some of our most cherished public spaces—including Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. LWCF funding has also gone towards protecting state and private forests, as well as efforts to protect our native species and watersheds.

“The LWCF also funds the Forest Legacy Program, which helps states and private owners protect and enhance forested habitats. The program has leveraged over $22 million of federal funding for Hawai‘i’s forests over the past 50 years.

“Most recently, the Forest Legacy Program helped facilitate the acquisition of the Helemano Wilderness Area on O‘ahu. This land includes high quality native forest that is home to the endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat and a watershed that is the primary source of drinking water for a third of the people on O‘ahu.

“Program funding will facilitate invasive species removal and reforestation. It will also provide public access to hunting and camping areas, which are limited on O‘ahu. Forest protection and conservation is particularly important as we face the threat of catastrophic climate change. Protecting these lands and forests can help mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, cooling the earth, and regenerating our watersheds.”

On the need to pass the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act to Support Organizations like KUPU:

“The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps bill included in the Natural Resources Management Act supports programs like KUPU that seek to nurture the next generation of environmental stewards.

“In testimony before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last Congress, KUPU’s CEO John Leong spoke to the transformative impact of participating in a conservation corps program. He cited two inspiring examples of Corps members who have gone on to do meaningful work in the environmental and conservation space.

“He shared the story of Jon Brito from Molokai who was awarded the White House Champion of Change award in the years following his participation in KUPU programming and who has since chosen a career in conservation.

“Another KUPU Corps participant, Justine Espiritu, recently helped to launch Honolulu’s popular and revolutionary Biki bike share.

“More young adults in Hawai‘i and across the country will have their own transformative experiences if we pass this legislation.”

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On the Necessity of Passing the National Volcano and Early Warning and Monitoring System Act:

“Last year, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) was instrumental in studying and responding to the 3-month-long eruption of Kīlauea.

“This eruption devastated a number of communities—destroying more than 700 homes and displacing thousands of people, including United States Geological Survey staff and scientists who operated out of the HVO facility in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

“Over the coming months and years, impacted homes, farms, and even the observatory will need to be rebuilt. At the same time, it will be critically important to have the most updated monitoring and communication technology to alert and protect impacted communities from future events.

“Our legislation will unify and connect the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory with the other four observatories across the country into one National Volcano Early Warning System.

“It will also create a Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to provide continuous situational awareness of all active volcanoes in the U.S. and its territories, including Kīlauea and Mauna Loa in Hawai‘i.

“Our legislation will also create a grant program for the research and development of emerging technologies for volcano monitoring.”

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