by Julia Neal

MORE NATIONAL PARK LANDS could be added in Ka`u if legislation by Sen. Brian Schatz goes forward. The bill, aimed at expanding Hawai`i’s National Parks, including sections of the Ka`u Coast, is the first piece of legislation offered by the freshman U.S. Senator who was appointed to office by Gov. Neil Abercrombie at the end of last year, following the death of longtime Senator Daniel Inouye.

Preservation of the Ka`u Coast has been a community initiative for more than a decade, leading to preservation of more than 1,000 acres between Honu`apo Pier and Punalu`u through county, state, federal and private money. The land is under the stewardship of the county with cooperation from community groups.

Thousands of additional Ka`u acres are under consideration around Road to the Sea and the slope above Honu`po across lands toward South Point.

Called the Pacific Islands Parks Act of 2013, the Schatz legislation calls for resource studies on the Ka`u Coast and several other Hawaiian Islands locations to be overseen by the Secretary of the Interior. The studies over three years could be funded from revenues taken in by the federal government from offshore gas and oil operations.

Schatz noted the value of national parks in Hawai`i for the visitor industry, as the parks bring in more than $260 million a year. Comments on the bill can be directed to Shatz’s website at See the new parks link.

Hawai`i Volcanoes National Parks Superintendent Cindy Orlando said that the park is very interested in the studies and has been working with Hawai`i’s delegation to congress on this initiative for a number of years. Rep. Ed Case and Maize Hirono asked for the studies of the Ka`u Coast, following the state’s South Kona – Ka`u Coastal Conservation Task Force of community members recommending preservation of the Ka`u Coast in 2006.

Brian Schatz
Sen. Brian Schatz

“One of Hawai‘i’s greatest resources is its globally unique mountains, forests, volcanoes, trails, and wildlife. Visitors from all over the world travel to Hawai‘i to experience not only the natural beauty, but also the cultural and historical significance of our national parks, which has resulted in a significant contribution to our state’s growing economy. These studies are a critical step in protecting natural resources, preserving history and culture in Hawai‘i and across the Pacific, and providing access to residents and visitors who want to share in Hawai‘i’s breathtaking natural environment. It is my hope that this legislation will begin a conversation about what sites should become national parks, monuments, trails, preserves, memorials, historic sites, and other public land designations.”