Legislature Passes Measures to Protect State’s Natural Resources

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The state Legislature, among many other priorities during the 2022 legislative session, took action to be a better steward of the environment.

State of Hawa‘i seal. Image courtesy of the State of Hawai‘i.

Lawmakers passed several key measures and funded initiatives and projects in the state budget that will help protect Hawaiʻi’s natural resources.

“Ten bills and the budget adopted by the 2022 Legislature will make meaningful changes to protect Hawaiʻi’s natural resources from the top of Maunakea to our oceans,” state Rep. David Tarnas, who represents North and South Kohala and North Kona on the Big Island and is chairman of the state House Committee on Water and Land, said in a press release. “Safeguarding what makes Hawaiʻi unique is critical for our residents and visitors now and for generations to come.”

Those 10 key measures are:

  • House Bill 2024: This bill establishes and provides $14 million for an alternative management framework for Maunakea, promoting a mutual stewardship paradigm in which ecology, the environment, natural resources, cultural practices, education and science are in balance and synergy.
  • HB 1768: This measure exempts instream use of water for traditional and customary kalo cultivation practices from the existing process for disposition of water rights.
  • HB 1436: This piece of legislation 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.
  • HB 1672: Lawmakers crafted this bill that authorizes counties to establish special improvement districts for the purpose of environmental research, restoration and maintenance, natural resource management and natural hazard mitigation.
  • Senate Bill 204: This measure authorizes the state Department of Land and Natural Resources 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.
  • HB 1653: This bill increases penalties for violations of aquatic resource laws and rules.
  • SB 3767: A measure that provides $350,000 to the DLNR for the statewide fish aggregation buoy program.
  • SB 3379: Legislators approved this bill that provides $525,000 to the state Department of Agriculture for a biosecurity program at ports of entry to prevent invasive species from entering the state.
  • SB 2768: This bill authorizes the DLNR and provides $5 million to establish and fund the Hawaiʻi Youth Conservation Corps, which provides temporary work and training opportunities to young people in natural resource management, agriculture and other sustainability-related professions.
  • SB 573: This legislation requires all Habitat Conservation Plans to include an agreement for 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.

The following were included in the next state budget, HB 1600:

  • $500,000, plus three additional positions to the DLNR, for the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission.
  • $8 million to the DLNR for watershed protection projects statewide.
  • Establishment of and funding for 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.
  • Establishment of and funding for 28 new positions in the DLNR State Parks division.
  • An increase to the expenditure ceiling for the DLNR State Parks Special Fund by $12 million so the park system can use revenues for park maintenance and improvement.
  • $300,000 and one new position to the DLNR’s hatchery program to provide fingerlings and limu for restoration and restocking of fishponds.
  • $1.5 million for the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council, plus $500,000 for the DLNR to control little fire ants.


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