Send Testimony Against SB 2378

Legacy Lands…Why Restrict Us?

Written by  | Published in Resilient Habitats & Healthy Communities

The Legacy Lands fund — which allows the state to protect and acquire environmental, cultural, and agricultural important lands — is under attack. This posting is courtesy of Lea Hong from Trust for Public Land on SB2378
SB 2378 Relating to Legacy Lands will be heard on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 2:45 p.m. before the Senate Agriculture and Senate Water, Land and Housing Committees.
Please submit testimony in opposition to this bill.  Talking points in opposition to SB 2378:
1.  Bill restricts applicants to the Legacy fund to only four state agencies – BLNR, the Dept. of Agriculture, the Agribusiness Development Corporation, and the Public Land Development Corporation.  Under the current law, state and county agencies and non-profit land conservation organizations may apply.  The four agencies granted exclusive rights to apply for funds can already apply under the existing law.  Under the existing law, applicants must submit applications and compete with other applicants for funding.  Only the best, most prepared/ready-to-go, and significant land projects get funded.  Competition ensures good land conservation.  These four agencies can already compete for funds, and will get funded if they submit good applications.  BLNR has already been successful in applying for funds (e.g., Hamakua Marsh, Honouliuli Forest Reserve, Kainalu Ranch).  There is no reason why the four agencies cannot compete well for funds.
2.  The Legacy Land law currently allows other state agencies, counties and non-profit land conservation organizations to apply for funding.  The bill excludes these entities.  Other state agencies like the Office of the Hawaiian Affairs, which has conserved Wao Kele O Puna, Waimea Valley, and Pahua Heiau, would be excluded from applying.  Counties (which have used Legacy funding to expand Black Pot park in Hanalei on Kaua’i, and purchase coastal land along the Kohala and Ka’u coastlines on Hawai’i island) would also be excluded.  Non-profit land conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, the Moloka’i Land Trust, and the North Shore Community Land Trust, would also be excluded.  These non-profit land conservation organizations have used Legacy funding to protect important places such as Lapakahi State Historical Park on the Big Island, important agricultural land on Moloka’i, and are working on dedicating ag land at Turtle Bay and in Windward O’ahu to agriculture in perpetuity with the support of Legacy funds.
3.  By excluding non-profit land conservation organizations, counties, and other State agencies, the bill undermines the public-private partnerships that have made the Legacy Land law a success.  For example, The Trust for Public Land partnered with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to apply for Legacy funding to purchase Honouliuli Forest Reserve, a watershed with dozens of endangered and threatened species, cultural sites, and important forest watershed that contributes to the Pearl Harbor aquifer.  The Trust for Public Land was able to work with other private investors to purchase a larger acreage from the James Campbell Company (the company refused to sell smaller lots), subdivide out the forest reserve, secure private interim financing to purchase the land on to meet the landowner’s requirements, raise substantial federal funding (over $2 million), and transfer it to the State (with a 400K endowment for management at the HI Community Foundation).  Without the help of private partners like the Trust for Public Land, the transaction could not have occurred.
4.  The bill also proposes to allow Legacy funds to be used for undefined “regulatory functions.”  The existing law already allows up to 5% of the fund to be used for administrative expenses, up to 5% for maintenance, operations and managements of lands acquired with Legacy funds, invasive species control, and re-forestation and sediment control.  Allowing undefined expenditures on “regulatory functions’ would allow more money to be siphoned away from the law’s primary mission — to conserve land.
5.  Senator Pohai Ryan has been working closely with the BLNR and Legacy Land Commission to promulgate rules and refine policies to improve Legacy land processes.  That process should be allowed to continue — if substantial changes are made to the law, the rules would have to be amended and go out (yet again) for public hearing and AG review.