U.S. House Again Passes Case Initiative Toward First National Forest For Hawai‘i
Despite unique tropical forest ecosystem, Hawai’i is one of few states without a national forest
The U.S. House has once again passed his National Forest study measure that calls on the United States Forest Service (USFS) to engage communities in the State of Hawai’i in a study to identify suitable parcels to be incorporated into a National Forest
News Release from Office of Rep Ed Case, Washington, DC, May 12, 2021
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) announced today that the U.S. House has once again passed his National Forest study measure that calls on the United States Forest Service (USFS) to engage communities in the State of Hawai’i in a study to identify suitable parcels to be incorporated into a National Forest.
The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Case obtained passage of a similar measure in late 2020 but the Senate did not act before expiration of the prior 116th Congress.
“My measure would direct the necessary first step in the establishment of a National Forest in Hawai’i,” said Case, a member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee and of its Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, in remarks to the full House on passage.
“Despite having some of the most unique and endangered forest lands in the country, Hawai‘i is one of the only a handful of states nationwide without a National Forest. Establishing a National Forest in Hawai‘i would support tropical forest conservation and research throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and provide appropriate recreational, cultural and commercial opportunities in Hawai‘i.”
“The study authorized by the bill would take steps to correct this oversight. It would consider how a Hawai‘i National Forest could contribute to the conservation of this biodiversity not found elsewhere in the National Forest System, while supporting the research mission of the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry.”
Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele (HI-02), who co-introduced the legislation, said: “The establishment of the Hawaiʻi National Forest Study is the first step to creating a National Forest System in Hawaiʻi. This legislation would help ensure the preservation of our State’s natural beauty and resources for generations to come. I thank Congressman Case for his work on the House Natural Resources Committee and look forward to our continued collaboration to protect Hawaiʻi’s land and natural resources.”
In his further floor remarks, Case added: “Hawai‘i is the most isolated island chain and one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world. Within these constrained borders, it has ten of the thirteen world climate zones, ecosystems ranging from the deserts to the tropics where plants and animals that found their way to Hawai‘i evolved like nowhere else.”
“A 2014 survey identified 9,975 endemic species in Hawai‘i, many of which are reliant on Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem to survive. However, since the onset of human arrival, Hawai‘i has lost almost half of its native forest cover and countless fauna and flora species.
Case said an inventory would help inventory where Hawai‘i’s native koa, ‘ōhi‘a and sandalwood forests can be conserved and expanded for cultural and commercial practices.
The bill would help identify where cultural sites could be better conserved and access expanded to the public and practitioners, and it would provide the basis to bring together local stakeholders to advance the conversation of how to responsibly establish a National Forest in Hawai‘i in a manner that will benefit both Hawai‘i’s island communities and the National Forest Service.
“As we continue to identify solutions to our climate and biodiversity crises, I hope we can all see the value in taking this step towards protecting Hawai‘i’s unique forest resources and its native species, along with providing important recreational, cultural and commercial opportunities in Hawai‘i,” said Case.
The National Forest System currently comprises 154 national forests, 20 national grasslands and several other federal land designations containing 193 million acres. Its core 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.
Last year, Case and the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ First Deputy, Robert Masuda, testified in favor of the measure at a Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands legislative hearing.
“The citizens of Hawai‘i share a passion for the lands and resources that have sustained our islands for generations,” said Masuda then. “It’s ingrained into our culture and outlook. Like other island peoples around the world, we understand that we live with finite resources on a limited land base. Living on isolated islands, we are particularly sensitive to the threats posed by pollution, climate change, and invasive species. We know that the conservation of our terrestrial and marine resources is necessary for the quality of life we now enjoy, and for future generations.
Masuda continued: “We believe Hawaii’s existing Forest Reserves, watershed and endangered species protection programs would align well with a National Forest in Hawaii.”
NOTE: The measure can be found here
NOTE: Congressman Case on C-SPAN speaking on the measure is here https://youtu.be/jWnqzCtCxBs