REPORT FROM US SENATOR BRIAN SCHATZ’S OFFICE —Senator Brian Schatz introduced his first bill in the United States Senate. This legislation, the Pacific Islands Parks Act of 2013, would direct the National Park Service to complete studies of three designated sites in the state of Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i is currently the home of seven national parks, which brought in over $259 million in 2011. The bill also includes provisions for studies on Midway Atoll, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.
“One of Hawai‘i’s greatest resources is its globally unique mountains, forests, volcanoes, trails, and wildlife,” said Schatz. “Visitors from all over the world travel to Hawai‘i to experience not only the natural beauty, but also the cultural and historical significance of our national parks, which has resulted in a significant contribution to our state’s growing economy. These studies are a critical step in protecting natural resources, preserving history and culture in Hawai‘i and across the Pacific, and providing access to residents and visitors who want to share in Hawai‘i’s breathtaking natural environment. It is my hope that this legislation will begin a conversation about what sites should become national parks, monuments, trails, preserves, memorials, historic sites, and other public land designations.”
Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands State Director for The Trust for Public Land noted: “Parks are a wise investment, supporting hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor recreational activities that contribute a total of $725.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and 6.15 million jobs according to the Outdoor Industry Association. More broadly, outdoor recreation, nature conservation, and historic preservation contribute a total of $1.06 trillion annually to the economy, supporting 8.4 million jobs – or one out every 16 jobs in the U.S.”
“The Sierra Club appreciates and strongly supports Senator Schatz’s efforts to protect Hawai‘i’s special places,” said Robert D. Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i. “Recognizing the looming impacts of climate change and sea level rise, this is an important step towards preserving Hawai‘i’s unique cultural and natural heritage, and ensuring our children have amazing beaches and wild places to explore.”
“The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was enacted nearly 50 years ago to use revenues from the extraction of offshore oil and gas to support the conservation of other precious resources – our land and water,” said Suzanne Case, Hawaiʻi State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “Today, the LWCF is the primary federal financing tool to conserve our national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. Legislation like that introduced by Senator Schatz today proposes to identify some of those precious resources in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific that are at risk of being lost, but have the potential for protection through the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” concluded Case.
“We support Senator Schatz’s efforts to expand National Parks in Hawai’i because Hawai‘i’s long-term well-being, environmentally, economically, and otherwise, is directly linked to the land and the choices we make about it,” said Ted Clement, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust Executive Director. “Indeed, Hawai’i’s state motto proclaims, ‘The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.’ The proposed legislation will help keep Hawai‘i a world-class destination and highly desirable place to live, work and visit – factors critical to our economy.”
Senator Schatz invites suggestions on potential park sites as well as feedback on what the people of Hawai‘i and the Pacific want from their national park system and other public lands. Comments can be made by selecting the “new parks” from the topics drop-down menu at http://www.schatz.senate.gov/contact.cfm.