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Rep. Case Votes to Pass Historic Conservation Measure

February 26, 2019, 5:51 PM HST
* Updated February 26, 5:52 PM
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U.S. Congressman Ed Case voted with a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House to pass what amounts to be the most important conservation effort approved by Congress in at least a decade on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The Natural Resources Management Act will protect approximately 1.3 million acres of wilderness and close to 700,000 acres of recreation and conservation lands nationwide. It would also permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the most effective federal conservation programs under which oil and gas revenues are utilized to acquire and protect invaluable public natural, history and cultural treasures.

Honouliuli Internment Camp. Wikimedia Commons image.

The measure also includes two major items for Hawai‘i: re-designating the former Honouliuli Internment Camp on O‘ahu where American citizens primarily of Japanese ancestry were detained during World War II solely because of race, as a National Historic site; and designating the USS Arizona Memorial as a separate site within the National Park Service.

“Both Honouliuli and the Arizona Memorial stand as stark reminders of tragic chapters in our country’s and Hawai‘i’s history,” said Case, a member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee with jurisdiction over this bill. “This measure assures that they both will continue to tell their stories
and teach their lessons to future generations.”

Case last week visited the former internment camp situated in a deep gulch at Honouliuli on the west side of the Island of O‘ahu. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the territory of Hawai‘i was placed under martial law. With that order came the internment of some 400 civilians, most of whom were American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were sent to the camp simply because they were suspected of being disloyal because of race. These and more internees were joined throughout the war by some 4,000 prisoners of war. The bill will place the 440-acre site under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which is undertaking a review and development process that will eventually allow visitors to access the site to see and feel its lessons.

The measure will also separate the USS Arizona Memorial from its designation as a site within the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. That monument currently lists nine sites in the states of Hawai‘i, California and Alaska. The USS Arizona Memorial currently attracts about two million visitors each year, making it one of the largest visitor attractions in the State of Hawai‘i. The newly-designated USS Arizona Memorial site will also include the visitor center, the USS Utah and USS Oklahoma Memorials, the six Chief Petty Officer bungalows on Ford Island and the mooring quays F6 North and South, F7 North and South and F8 North and South.

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The separation and re-designation will eventually allow public and private efforts to be focused on maintenance and enhancement of the Memorial. Case singled out his predecessor, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, for credit on the Honouliuli and Arizona initiatives. “Congresswoman Hanabusa fought hard for inclusion of these provisions right up until the last weeks of her service in Congress and she deserves recognition for preserving these critical reminders of our history.”

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The Natural Resources Management Act also permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund that implements conservation efforts in nearly every state. The Fund protects areas such as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks and trails. The Fund expired last September, resulting in the potential loss of $335 million in funding nationwide.

The bill was previously passed by the U.S. Senate and now goes directly to the president for his consideration.

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