The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has heard testimony from the National Park Service on the Pacific Islands Parks Act, introduced by Senator Brian Schatz.
This legislation would direct the National Park Service to complete studies of three designated sites in the state of Hawaii.
Schatz is a member of the Senate Energy Committee and serves as the chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee.
Hawaii is currently the home of seven national parks, which were responsible for over $259 million in revenue for the state in 2011. The bill also includes provisions for studies on Midway Atoll, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.
“The Pacific Island Parks Act is making good progress in the United States Senate. This bill would improve our local economy, preserve our parks, and increase tourism in Hawaii,” Schatz said. “Hawaii is home to some of the most incredible and unique sites, many of which have been designated as national parks. By passing this legislation, we would be opening the door to protecting additional sites, while also contributing to tourism and economic growth. I will continue to work with my colleagues, including Chairman Ron Wyden, to make this bill a reality.”
Schatz’s Pacific Islands Parks Act has been praised by the Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club of Hawaii, Nature Conservancy, and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.
Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands State Director for The Trust for Public Land, said: “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 Hawaii’s special places,” said Robert D. Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. “Recognizing the looming impacts of climate change and sea level rise, this is an important step towards preserving Hawaii’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, Hawaii State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “The LWCF is the primary federal financing tool to conserve our national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. Legislation like that introduced by Senator Schatz proposes to identify some of those precious resources in Hawaii 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 Hawaii because Hawaii’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, Hawaii’s state motto proclaims, ‘The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.’ The proposed legislation will help keep Hawaii a world-class destination and highly desirable place to live, work and visit – factors critical to our economy.”