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House Passes Hirono Bill to Study Designating Kaena Point a National Heritage Area

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Heritage Area Act, which includes the Kaena Point National Heritage Area Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) to study designating Kaena Point on Oahu as a National Heritage Area, by a vote of 326-95. The legislation would require the Department of the Interior (DOI) to study the feasibility of designating Kaena Point, on Oahu, as a National Heritage Area. The National Heritage Area Act, S. 1942, passed the Senate unanimously earlier this week and now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“Kaena Point offers one of the last glimpses of undisturbed coastline in Hawaii and is home to numerous cultural, historical, and natural resources,” said Senator Hirono. “A National Heritage Area designation would bring much-needed federal support to maintain and manage Kaena Point, as well as protect the native and endangered species that inhabit the site. This bill will help preserve this precious ecosystem and ensure it can be appreciated for years to come.”

The Kaena Point National Heritage Area Act directs the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with state and local stakeholders, to study the possibility of designating Kaena Point as a National Heritage Area. It requires the study to be completed within 3 years and that upon completion the Secretary submit a report to Congress on the findings. The bill is supported by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Representative Ed Case introduced the companion Kaena Point National Heritage Area Act, H.R. 1908, which passed the House of Representatives in March.

A National Heritage Area designation would unlock federal resources to help elevate public awareness of Kaena Point and enhance management activities to protect cultural and natural resources for future generations. Kaena Point is currently managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and includes the second-most visited park on Oahu—Kaena Point State Park. The State Park also serves as a gateway to the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, which was established over 30 years ago to help preserve one of the last intact dune ecosystems in Hawaii. The coastal ecosystems and nearshore waters at Kaena Point offer critical habitat to numerous endemic and endangered species.

The full text of the National Heritage Act can be found here.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, Senator Hirono has championed legislation to protect Hawaii’s environment, fish, wildlife, and plants. In September, she introduced legislation authorizing $55 million in federal funding over the next eleven years to support ongoing efforts to help combat Rapid Ohia Death in Hawaii. At a ENR subcommittee hearing, Senator Hirono delivered remarks emphasizing the importance of the Kaena Point National Heritage Area Act, legislation she introduced earlier this year to study the feasibility of designating Kaena Point as a National Heritage Area.

This past March, Senator Hirono introduced a bipartisan resolution designating April 2022 as “National Native Plant Month,” recognizing the importance of native plants to environmental conservation and restoration, as well as in supporting a diversity of wildlife. In April 2021, she also announced that the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District was one of the projects to receive federal funding to boost biodiversity and support wildlife habitats. Earlier that year, Senator Hirono joined the other members of the Hawaii delegation in introducing legislation to assess the potential for Hawaii lands to be declared a national forest.