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Hawaii congressional delegation seeks national forest declaration

Hawaii’s four-member U.S. congressional delegation has introduced bills to direct the U.S. Forest Service to assess the potential for Hawaii lands to be declared a national forest, in partnership with local stakeholders from the state and community.

The pair of bills were introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele, all Democrats.

Across the U.S., more than 150 national forests receive federal funding to sustain healthy forests, conserve watersheds and wildlife habitats, reduce fire hazards, and provide recreational access. The national forest designation also allows for further research opportunities as well as other federal support and natural resource management.

“Hawaii’s rain forests are home to some of the most diverse wildlife in the country, but hundreds of these species are endangered and in need of protection,” said Schatz. “Our bill is a critical first step to conserving these vibrant ecosystems and establishing our state’s first national forest.”

Hirono referred to Hawaii’s “unique biodiversity … currently not represented within the National Forest System.”

“At a time when our environment, species, and watersheds are under constant threat, efforts like this bill can help identify forests in Hawaii that are most suitable to preserve as a national forest,” Hirono said.

Case described the establishment of a national forest in Hawaii as “long overdue, especially given that we have some of the most unique forest resources in the world.”

“A designated National Forest at home would expand upon the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest by providing greater support for tropical forest conservation and research throughout the Hawaiian Islands, provide great public access to lands for recreational activities and cultural practice, and help our Hawaii diversify its economy,” Case said.

Hirono is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Case is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. This bill will be referred to these committees for consideration.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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