KALAUPAPA MEMORIAL, HANA BOTANICAL GARDENS INCLUDED IN PUBLIC LANDS BILL

January 15, 2009, 11:36 AM HST · Updated January 15, 12:41 PM
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U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka today voted to support the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (S. 22), a bipartisan package of over 160 bills that includes legislation supporting the establishment of a memorial honoring Hansen’s disease patients of Kalaupapa.  The bill also supports funding in the amount of $5 million over 10 years to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hana for operation and maintenance.  The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 73-21.

As Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee during the 110th Congress, Senator Akaka held hearings on a number of the bills included in this package.

Senator Akaka said: “We are a step closer to enacting a number of significant measures that will protect and preserve America’s natural resources and wildlife.   I look forward to timely consideration by the House.  I am particularly pleased Hawaii will benefit from specific environmental and cultural preservation provisions I sponsored.   These provisions acknowledge the desire to preserve Hawaii’s unique heritage for future generations.  I am proud that the people of Hawaii, through partnerships at the state and federal levels, have embraced this opportunity to revive our culture, heritage, and natural resources, and to share this legacy with people across the nation.”

Legislation sponsored by Senator Akaka in the 110th Congress included in S. 22:

S. 2502, the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, establishes a memorial honoring the Hansen’s disease patients of Kalaupapa and Kalawao within the Kalaupapa National Historical Park.  This measure would authorize a non-profit organization consisting of Kalaupapa residents and their family and friends, and known as “Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa,” to establish a memorial at a suitable location in the park to honor the memory of the 8,000 residents who lived at the Kalaupapa and Kalawao communities.

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“This long overdue memorial will honor and perpetuate the memory of Hansen’s disease patients who were forcibly relocated to Kalaupapa.  More than 8,000 people were sent to Kalaupapa, but only about 1,300 graves have been identified.  The monument will provide closure and a sense of belonging to many families who have no knowledge of their ancestors’ whereabouts,” Akaka said.

S. 1728, the Na Hoa Pili O Kaloko-Honokohau Advisory Commission Reauthorization Act, re-authorizes an Advisory Commission for Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park through 2018.  Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, located on the Western coast of the Big Island, was established in 1978 to provide for the preservation, interpretation, and perpetuation of traditional Native Hawaiian activities and culture; to demonstrate historic land use patterns; and to provide for the education, enjoyment, and appreciation of traditional Native Hawaiian activities and culture.

“This Advisory Commission advises the National Park Service on historical, archaeological, cultural and interpretive programs for the Park and serves as a living resource for the education, enjoyment, and understanding of traditional Hawaiian culture and activities.  I am pleased it will be authorized to continue its important mission for the next decade,” Akaka said.

S. 2220, the Outdoor Recreation Act of 1963 Amendments Act, authorizes $5 million over the course of ten years to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens for operation and maintenance.  Since 1976, the National Tropical Botanical Gardens has worked to preserve and cultivate native Hawaiian plants, and has made its program of preserving Hawaii’s endangered and threatened flora a matter of the highest priority.

“Conservation is critical as tropical plant species continue to become extinct at a disturbing rate.  Hawaii is home to 1,300 indigenous plant species that evolved over millions of years, a significant resource in biodiversity to the United States.  Each time we lose a species to extinction we lose an irreplaceable reservoir of unique genes and eliminate their possible benefit to humankind,” Akaka said.

S. 320, the Paleontological Resource Preservation Act, provides for the protection of fossil resources on federal lands, curbs fossil theft, while continuing to allow the practice of casual collecting enjoyed on federal lands.

“Vertebrate fossils are rare and important natural resources that have become increasingly endangered due to a rise in illegal collection of fossil specimens for commercial sale. This bill will create a comprehensive national policy for preserving and managing fossils and other artifacts found on Federal land, and will prevent future illegal trade,” Akaka said.

In addition, S. 22 includes S. 1680, the Izembek and Alaska Peninsula Refuge Enhancement Act of 2008, cosponsored by Senator Akaka.  This act authorizes a discretionary land exchange, subject to the National Environmental Policy Act and a public interest determination by the Secretary of Interior, to allow construction of a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to support the health and safety needs of a rural and Alaska Native community.

Nationally, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (S. 22) will add over 2 million new acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish three new units of the National Park System and enlarge more than a dozen existing areas.  It will add three new National Conservation Areas, add over 1,000 miles to the National Wild and Scenic River System, and add four new trails to the National Trails System.

(Posted by Wendy Osher:  Thursday, January 15, 2009)

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