Gabbard, Case Pursue First National Forest for Hawai‘i
May 30, 2020
Honolulu, HI—This week, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Ed Case (HI-01) jointly introduced in the U.S. House H.R.7045, a measure to pursue creation of Hawai‘i’s first-ever National Forest.
“Hawai‘i’s forests are critical parts of our island ecosystems, home to the oldest living ancestors of this place – the flora and fauna that have so much to teach us about how to live sustainably. Our forests protect us from runoff, recharge our aquifers, provide habitat for native species, and connect us spiritually to this ‘āina. We must explore every avenue to protect them,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
“Hawai‘i is the most isolated island chain and one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world,” said Rep. Ed Case. “Within our constrained borders, we have ten of the thirteen world climate zones, and ecosystems ranging from the deserts to the tropics where plants and animals that found their way to Hawai‘i evolved like nowhere else.
“Among our truly unique and endangered natural treasures are the only tropical rainforests of any state. Yet we are one of the very few states in our nation which has not recognized its special forest resources with a National Forest designation.”
A 2014 survey identified 9,975 endemic species in Hawai‘i, many of which are reliant on Hawaiʻi’s fragile ecosystem to survive. However, since the onset of human arrival, Hawai‘i has lost almost half of its native forest cover.
The National Forest System comprises 154 national forests, 20 national grasslands and several other federal land designations containing 193 million acres. Its mission is to conserve land for a variety of uses to include watershed management, research, cultural site preservation, wildlife habitat management and research and outdoor recreation.
Case and Gabbard continued: “Our Hawai‘i National Forest Study Act would identify parcels of land that could later be incorporated into a National Forest that would fulfill the National Forest System’s mission. It would also help inventory how best to conserve and expand Hawai‘i’s native koa, ‘ōhi‘a and sandalwood forests can be conserved and expanded to lay the groundwork for establishment of a National Forest. This designation would also assist with federal resources for management and protection."
The legislation follows a measure that the two members of the Hawai‘i Congressional delegation introduced in April that calls on the U.S. Department of the Interior to pursue another first for the state: the designation of a National Heritage Area.
Both members say Kaʻena Point, largely state-owned, is the perfect candidate for Hawaiʻi’s first National Heritage Area given its truly unique cultural, historic and environmental heritage and qualities. From designation of the first National Heritage Area in 1984, there are now 55 nationally, but none in Hawaiʻi.
Background: In April, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case jointly introduced H.R.6603, a measure in the U.S. House of Representatives to study the potential designation of the Ka‘ena Point coastline wrapping around O‘ahu’s westernmost location as Hawaiʻi’s first National Heritage Area.
National Heritage Areas are locations throughout our country designated by Congress to recognize unique cultural and historic sites found nowhere else in the world. Though not part of the National Park System or otherwise federally owned or managed, the U.S. government through the National Park Service, funds and participates in partnerships with state and local governments and communities to foster coordinated conservation, recreation, education and preservation efforts. From designation of the first National Heritage Area in 1984, there are now 55 nationally, but none in Hawaiʻi.
National Forests are largely woodland and forested areas that are protected and federally managed by the United States Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. The National Forest System was created by Congress through the Land Revision Act of 1891. This legislation aims to preserve, protect, and restore Hawaii’s forest ecosystems, building upon Senator Akaka’s Hawaii Tropical Forestry Recovery Act, and his work to protect tropical forests.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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