March 04, 2021

Hawaii Congressional Delegation Introduces Bill to Study Potential for a National Forest in Hawaii

Legislation would provide information on lands suitable to become part of the National Forest System

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz and Representatives Ed Case and Kai Kahele introduced legislation that directs the U.S. Forest Service to assess the potential for Hawaii lands to be declared a national forest, in partnership with local stakeholders from the state and community.

Across the United States, more than 150 national forests receive federal funding to sustain healthy forests, conserve watersheds and wildlife habitats, reduce fire hazards, and provide community recreational access. The national forest designation also allows for further research opportunities as well as other federal support and natural resource management.

“Hawaii has unique biodiversity that is currently not represented within the National Forest System. At a time when our environment, species, and watersheds are under constant threat, efforts like this bill can help identify forests in Hawaii that are most suitable to preserve as a national forest. As a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I urge Congress to take action so that the Forest Service can consider managing and conserving forest ecosystem resources in Hawaii,” Senator Hirono said.

"Hawaii’s rainforests are home to some of the most diverse wildlife in the country, but hundreds of these species are endangered and in need of protection," said Senator Schatz. "Our bill is a critical first step to conserving these vibrant ecosystems and establishing our state's first national forest."

“Advancing establishment of Hawaii’s first National Forest is long overdue, especially given that we have some of the most unique forest resources in the world,” said Congressman Case. “A designated National Forest at home would expand upon the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest by providing greater support for tropical forest conservation and research throughout the Hawaiian Islands, provide great public access to lands for recreational activities and cultural practice, and help our Hawaii diversify its economy.”

“The potential establishment of Hawaii’s first national forest reserve is an important step toward the conservation and expansion of our unique and vibrant ecosystems. Hawaii’s finite natural resources, wildlife, and endangered plant species must be protected,” said Congressman Kahele. “A national forest reserve here at home will help to ensure that for generations to come.”

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources First Deputy Bob Masuda said, "The people of Hawaii share a passion for the lands and resources that have sustained our islands for generations. It’s ingrained into our culture and outlook. We understand that we live with finite resources on a limited land base. We are particularly sensitive to the threats of pollution, climate change, and invasive species. The State and the U.S. Forest Service have a successful record of ongoing collaboration. We believe Hawaii’s existing State Forest Reserves, watershed and endangered species protection programs would align well with a National Forest in Hawaii."

Senator Hirono, Senator Schatz, and Rep. Case introduced this legislation last Congress. Senator Hirono is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Case is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. This bill will be referred to these committees for consideration. If enacted, the bill would require the Forest Service to submit a report within three years to Congress that includes results and any recommendations or conclusions.

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