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Legislative Update

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources is responsible for the management and oversight of more than 1.3 million acres of public land, three million acres of state ocean waters, all fresh water resources, historic and cultural sites, forest and watersheds. It also has responsibility for protection and preservation of endangered species, all public beaches and for more than two million acres of public and private Conservation District lands.

DLNR has partnerships with multiple, state, federal and county agencies and takes a lead role in addressing and resolving threats to Hawaii’s unique natural and cultural resources. The department’s more than 700 employees are dedicated to the preservation and protection of all that makes Hawaii special, by employing a broad range of talents, education and experience to this shared mission. DLNR’s 2015 budget requests reflect not only this mission, but the passion and in some instances, the absolute necessity of funding programs to ensure protection and preservation of resources for today and for future generations.

• Invasive Species – Island ecosystems face serious threats from invasive species. Threats from the fire ant, the brown tree snake and the rhino beetle, among other invasive species pose threats to Hawaii’s tourism-based economy, agriculture, forests and people. DLNR seeks to restore $1 million of funding to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and supports proposals increasing this amount to $5 million to address this crisis. This will improve coordination of invasive species prevention, management and response and create “green jobs” in rural communities. The Department’s front-line approach toward invasive species control, introduction and eradication is an important priority.

• Watershed Initiative – The Department’s top priority is ensuring a perpetual fresh water supply for the people of Hawaii. To help achieve this goal, “The Rain Follows the Forest” watershed initiative seeks to double the number of acres of protected watershed forests within the next decade. This initiative will control threats such as invasive species and wildfires, plant trees, and conduct other actions necessary to protect priority forests. The affordability and availability of Hawaii’s water depends on the health of our native forests, which absorb and increase groundwater supply by up to 50 percent. Funding already provided or previously approved, supports the protection of over 38,000 acres and management of more than 487,000 acres. Additionally, thousands of seedlings have been planted; mostly by volunteers.

DLNR requests $11 million in annual funding for the watershed program, including continued funding of 11 new positions dedicated to this initiative.

• Hunting Program – To supplement, the significant amount of federal matching funding available to support hunting programs, the Department requests $750,000 for the Wildlife Revolving Fund. A lack of funding constrains the ability of the DLNR to provide the level of management desired by hunting constituents for the state’s wildlife and game animals. Over the past decade, Oahu has added 17,000 acres of land for hunting opportunities. Currently 900,000 acres are available statewide, with the majority of 700,000 acres on Hawaii Island. As the Department increases its efforts on forest protection, it must work collaboratively with our hunting community on a state-wide game management plan to maintain hunting access and game populations.

• CFEU – The success of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit on Maui has led to a dramatic increase in citations and compliance on the Valley Isle. Launched with private grant funding in May 2013, CFEU started with three officers, a Makai Watch coordinator, a program coordinator and a data manager. Focused on illegal netting activities on Maolomoui’s north shore, DLNR proposes making the program permanent on Maui and expand it to Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai with a requested FY 15 funding level of $1 million.

• Ocean Management – Managing and protecting Hawaii’s ocean resources is critical to Hawaii’s economy and well-being and is a vital part of DLNR’s mission and responsibilities. With the adoption of the Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan (ORMP) in July 2013, the Department is the lead agency on five of the state’s 11 top management goals, and the operational agency on ten of the eleven goals. These new duties have increased responsibilities for aquatics, boating and enforcement staff. DLNR is requesting $1 million for funding seven positions and operational funds to begin implementing the requirements of the ORMP.

Solomon is the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Water and Land. She also sits as a member on the Judiciary and Labor and Transportation and International Affairs committees. To reach her, call (808) 586-7335, or visit her pages on the Hawaii State Legislature website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.