Big Island lawmakers, DLNR: 2021 session, best for resource protection in decades
State legislators and DLNR leaders believe that the 2021 legislative session was the most productive and effective in protecting and sustaining natural and cultural resources in decades.
Representative David Tarnas, from the island of Hawaii, is the chair of the House Water and Land Committee, as well as an advocate for DLNR and its programs.
“This year has been an excellent year for the Department of Lands and Natural Resources and its partnership, which works closely with the legislature. When I took over as head of the committee, the first thing I asked was… “What were the measures that they had been trying to introduce for years and were never able to move forward?” We’ve seen a huge backlog of good ideas, ”Tarnas explained.
Tarnas said his goal is to make it easier to talk about these bills, browse the best bills, and be productive about it. This is the second time Tarnas has served in the Legislative Assembly.
“I already knew many members of the DLNR division since I came to the (legislature) 25 years ago. They knew they had an ally and, moreover, a level of trust because they were all very cooperative and willing to provide the information we needed to make decisions, ”said Tarnas.
In the Senate, the DLNR had a strong ally in Senator Lorraine Inouye, also MP for the island of Hawaii. Like Representative Tarnas, as chair of the Senate Land and Water Committee, she led numerous natural resource bills for final votes.
Senator Inouye said: “It was a remarkable session. We were able to reflect the strong public sentiment that users of our natural resources should pay for this privilege. Empowering our natural and cultural resource managers and the various subject matter experts in DLNR divisions the ability to do their jobs effectively and efficiently is something we can all be proud of. Our work is not done, but 2021 has been a significant step forward. ”
DLNR President Suzanne Case, speaking on behalf of the staff and leadership of the department, said: “People who have watched DLNR’s efforts and proposals in the legislature for many years believe that the session 2021 may have been the best ever or certainly in a very long time. We have made significant progress with legislation to further protect our precious – and in some cases rapidly declining – resources to strengthen the enforcement of natural and cultural resources, and to fund some of these efforts without further burdening Hawaiian taxpayers.
Tarnas said he and his colleagues have shown a willingness to examine those things that make Hawai’i special, accentuated by the pandemic and the hiatus from tourism.
“The management of natural resources is an important part of it. We found fewer visitors here, we noticed that our special places were less crowded, our environment was less stressed and we saw a visible improvement in ecosystem health in our coastal waters and our hiking areas, ”a he commented.
Much of the legislature’s work has focused on “adaptive management of the public’s trusted resources,” to ensure that they are not overused by visitors and residents. Some of the adaptive management bills passed by lawmakers include:
- HB1276 (State Park Fee) – Dynamic Pricing – allows the DLNR Division of State Parks to set parking and entrance fees based on current conditions.
- HB1020 (Adaptive Natural Resource Management) – provides an alternative process with fewer procedural steps to enable the DLNR to quickly implement some temporary adaptive management measures, while also providing the opportunity for review and input public.
Chair Case has identified HB1020 as perhaps the most important piece of legislation to come out of the State Capitol this year.
“This gives us the opportunity, through notable action by the Council with input from the public, to respond quickly to unforeseen threats, such as a coral bleaching event, with temporary fixes of up to two years to help. the environment to recover – something between a very short term state of emergency and a permanent rule change. It’s very avant-garde for today’s world, ”she said.
The application of natural and cultural resources were also big winners in the 2021 legislature. For example, the proceeds from specialized license plates will go into a special fund to support the DLNR Division of Conservation and Enforcement. resources (DOCARE).
“DOCARE is in desperate need of support, so we were able to diversify its financial support to ensure better enforcement of boating and aquatic rules,” Tarnas said.
Three of the new “sources of funding” bills were announced when the governor signed them into law on June 8, 2021.
- SB772 (Special License Plates) – Authorizes the issuance of special license plates to support environmental conservation, with program proceeds to be used to fund conservation efforts. Income will be deposited into the special conservation and resource fund.
- HB1023 (Recreational Sea Fishing License) – Establishes and requires a recreational fishing license for all non-Hawaiian residents. Visitors will need to purchase this license to fish from shore or from a boat in Hawaiian waters. Revenue generated from license sales will help support fishing opportunities and provide state matching funds for the federal sport fish restoration program.
- HB1019 (Special Ocean Stewardship Fund) – Establishes a Special Hawaii Ocean Stewardship Fund to provide more consistent and reliable support for conservation, protection, restoration and management of resources Hawaii’s precious and endangered navies. As of January 1, 2024, users will pay a fee of $ 1 per person for commercial activities based on ocean-going vessels.
These were part of a larger package of aquatic resource bills signed on World Oceans Day.
Other measures give DOCARE agents more extensive enforcement powers. HB1022 allows them to control the catches of fish or animals that have been hunted, through administrative inspections, to confirm compliance with the regulations. Another requires that setting nets be registered and gives the division the power to suspend or revoke net registrations for fishermen who use them illegally.
Other new laws to note include:
- HB863 (Nursery Expansion) – Allocates funds to the Forest Stewardship Program of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to build and expand state nursery facilities.
- HB1176 (job corps program) – Allows the governor to appoint the DLNR to administer or enter into agreements for the administration of a green jobs program for young people that provides temporary employment and training opportunities to help cope to the unemployment impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and support economic diversification. Requires report to legislature. Appropriate funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
- HB1009 (violations on state forest reserve lands) – Amends fines and additional costs for destroying or harvesting trees or tree products, including koa, on state forest reserve lands State. Establishes penalties for anyone who violates the vehicle parking or traffic rules adopted by the DLNR under the laws on forest reserves, water management and zoning. Allows the state to initiate civil and criminal proceedings against a person who violates forest reserves, water development, and zoning laws and rules. Establishes criminal penalties for violations of all laws or rules relating to forest reserves. Repeals the general provision on penalties for violations of certain laws and regulations relating to forestry and wildlife, recreation areas and fire protection.
- SB795 (Small Craft Harbors) – Amends the criteria for calculating the various fees that the Department of Lands and Natural Resources may charge for the use of state small craft harbors, including requiring that certain fees small craft harbor are set at fair market value, and how certain charges are applied.