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Thursday, May 2, 2024
Tokuda: Make Lahaina Federally Controlled 'National Heritage Area'
By News Release @ 10:20 PM :: 1348 Views :: Maui County, Development

National Heritage Areas: Background and Issues for Congress

from Congressional Research Service, April 17, 2023 (excerpts)

NHAs are designated by acts of Congress. Prior to establishing a new NHA, Congress typically directs the Secretary of the Interior to study the area for potential designation. Such studies address a range of considerations, including the area’s suitability and feasibility. Suitability relates to whether the area contains resources representative of distinct aspects of U.S. heritage; reflects U.S. traditions, customs, beliefs, and folklife; and provides opportunities for recreation and education. Feasibility relates to whether a designation has local support, a conceptual financial plan, an identified management entity, and conceptual boundaries.

In establishing a new NHA, Congress designates a local coordinating entity—usually nonfederal—to coordinate and oversee administration of the area. This entity typically develops and implements a plan for managing the NHA, in collaboration with other stakeholders. The plan usually becomes the blueprint for managing the area. The local coordinating entity typically receives funding from a wide variety of sources, including federal funding from NPS through annual appropriations laws. The FY2023 appropriation for NPS assistance to heritage areas was $29.2 million—a 7.7% increase from the FY2022 enacted level. Local coordinating entities for NHAs can use federal funds for many purposes, including staffing, planning, and executing projects.

Opponents view NHAs as an inefficient or ineffective use of federal resources. For example, some stakeholders have suggested that NHAs may be burdensome or costly to the federal government and have expressed a desire to focus NPS resources on federally owned properties and on reducing the agency’s deferred maintenance backlog. Some past Administrations expressed interest in having NHAs become financially self-sufficient. Some appropriators and other Members of Congress have emphasized self-sufficiency for these areas, as well. Opponents also contend that NHAs could interfere with nonfederal management of certain areas, threaten private property rights, or lead to federal control of nonfederal areas.

Property rights advocates often oppose establishment of heritage areas. They contend that some NHAs lack significant local support.37 These opponents promote routine notifications to private property owners when their lands fall within proposed heritage areas, on the grounds that the NPS could exert a degree of federal control over nonfederal lands by influencing zoning and land-use planning.38 Some raise concerns that the federal government would not routinely adhere to any private property protections in legislation. They contend that localities have to obtain the approval of the Secretary of the Interior for heritage area management plans and assert that some plans are overly prescriptive in regulating details of private property use.39 …

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Rep. Tokuda Seeks Study to Establish Lahaina as a National Heritage Area

News Release from Office of Rep Tokuda, May 2, 2024

Washington, D.C. – To recognize Lahaina’s historical, cultural, and ecological value, Rep. Jill Tokuda (HI-02) introduced the Lahaina National Heritage Area Act yesterday, which would begin the process of potentially designating the Maui town as a National Heritage Area.

The Lahaina National Heritage Area Act would direct the National Park Service, in consultation with state and local partners, to study the suitability and feasibility of this designation for Lahaina. 

“Lele, or Lahaina, as it became known, has always been a place of historic, cultural, and ecological importance. As we look to rebuild, this designation would make clear the need to renew and revive the tradition and culture of this place that once was home to aliʻi and served as the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii,” said Rep. Tokuda. “We need to do all we can to support community-driven efforts to recognize special places like Lahaina for generations to come, and this designation would allow the federal government to do its part through available matching funds.”

National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress to support state and local conservation efforts through recognition, federal funding, and technical assistance. The National Heritage Area designation would unlock federal funding to help rehabilitate important sites, develop information tours, establish interpretive exhibits and programs, increase public awareness, or sponsor special events to highlight the area’s historic, natural and cultural heritage.

"Lahaina town represents a deep and rich plethora of historical, cultural, and natural resources that clearly illustrate the heritage of Lahaina's community," said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen.  "We mahalo Representative Tokuda in her efforts to establish Lahaina as a National Heritage Area, which will support the delicate preservation of Lahaina's unique and diverse cultural fabric."

"Mahalo for all the great efforts being done by Representative Jill Tokuda in steer heading this process at a national level to give reverence to Lahaina which is well deserved and very much overdue, highlighting the history and cultural integrity, creating a sense of place that was almost forgotten, allowing it to rise from these ashes and bringing hope to the people of Hawaii and abroad. We have one chance to do this right as a National Heritage Area,” said Ke’eaumoku Kapu of Na’Aikane o Maui Inc.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands Ranking Member Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Ranking Member Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-02) are original cosponsors of the bill, along with, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA-39), Gregorio Sablan (D-MP-AL) and Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-01).

“A National Heritage Area designation, especially in the Lahaina area, will bring about important economic development and speed up recovery after the area was affected by the catastrophic Lahaina fire,” said Rep. LaMalfa. “Residents and businesses are supportive of the initiative and the benefits that this designation would bring. I recently joined Congresswoman Tokuda in her district to see the devastation of the fire, and I agree that this feasibility study is an important first step to this process.”

There are 62 national heritage areas in the United States but none in Hawaiʻi. Kaʻena Point is currently being studied for designation. National Heritage Areas are not federally owned and do not restrict or infringe on the rights of any property owners.


KHON: Hawaii Rep. Jill Tokuda proposes Lahaina as National Heritage Area (


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