Maui News

Legislation Pursues Creation of First National Heritage Areas in Hawai‘i

March 17, 2021, 7:58 AM HST
* Updated March 17, 8:11 AM
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Kaʻena Point Natural Area Reserve on Oʻahu. Video: DLNR 2021

The state’s US House delegation jointly introduced two measures to pursue the creation of the first National Heritage Areas in the State of Hawaiʻi.

Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele (HI-02) is calling for a feasibility study to determine whether the South Kona coastline on the Island of Hawaiʻi should be designated as an NHA; while Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) is reintroducing his measure from the just-concluded 116th Congress for a similar designation for Kaʻena Point on the Island of Oʻahu.

Since the designation of the nation’s first National Heritage Area in 1984, there are now 55 NHAs nationally but none in the state of Hawaiʻi.

Kahele’s measure focuses on the coastal area between Ka Lae and Honomalino Bay, along miles of mostly pristine coastline. The area is host to some of the richest and most well-preserved cultural aspects of Hawaiʻi’s history along with invaluable and unique environmental and natural resources.

“The South Kona coastline has some of the most unique historical, cultural, and archaeological features on the planet,” said Kahele. “This bill can ensure the conservation and preservation of this area in its current natural state and begin the federal process of a National Heritage Area designation.” 

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“The South Kona coastline still retains so much of the unique cultural, historical and physical essence of the real Hawaiʻi,” said Case, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources with jurisdiction over NHAs. “It holds a special place in my heart from my own small kid times there and fully needs and deserves the assistance of an NHA.”

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Case’s measure focuses on the undeveloped area of Kaʻena Point on the west end of Oʻahu from Makua to Waialua. It is the site of the last intact sand dune ecosystem in Hawaiʻi and is said to be named after a sibling of the Hawaiian goddess Pele. Kaʻena Point also includes a leina ka ‘uhane, an important recognized cultural site that, according to some Hawaiian traditions, is where the souls of the deceased leapt into the next plane of existence. Ka‘ena is also home to various protected species including laysan albatrosses, wedge-tailed shearwaters, monk seals and fragile native plants.

“Kaʻena Point, largely state-owned, is the perfect candidate for a National Heritage Area in Hawaiʻi given its truly unique cultural, historic and environmental heritage and qualities,” said Case. “The State of Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources has already created a management plan for the Ka‘ena Point Stewardship Area to protect one of the last few remaining and easily accessible wilderness areas on O‘ahu.”

“Kaʻena Point holds a special place for many Native Hawaiians who visit the area for traditional cultural reasons, as well as non-Hawaiians who tour the area to learn about its significance,” said Kahele. “Establishing Kaʻena point as a National Heritage Area is long overdue.”

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NHAs offer federal assistance of joint efforts to manage NHAs for specific protections and uses appropriate to each. Kahele and Case emphasized that any studies for South Kona and Kaʻena Point would fully involve all engaged communities in charting the overall plan “for the protection and use of these unique parts of the rich heritage of our country.”

  • Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. Image: still of video by Department of Land and Natural Resources. (March 2021)
  • Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. Image: still of video by Department of Land and Natural Resources. (March 2021)
  • Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. Image: still of video by Department of Land and Natural Resources. (March 2021)
  • Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. Image: still of video by Department of Land and Natural Resources. (March 2021)
  • Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. Image: still of video by Department of Land and Natural Resources. (March 2021)
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