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Congress Approves Case, Kahele Measure To Advance Possible Designation Of Ka'ena Point As A National Heritage Area

The designation would be Hawaii’s first National Heritage Area, recognizing our nation’s unique conservation, recreation, education and preservation areas and providing federal assistance for stewardship

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) announced today that the U.S. House of Representatives has given final Congressional approval to a bill he and U.S. Congressman Kai Kahele (HI-02) introduced to advance the possible designation of Ka‘ena Point on O‘ahu’s westernmost tip as Hawaii’s first  Natural Heritage Area (NHA). 

The Senate, where a companion measure was introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono, approved passage of the bill earlier this week as part of an end-of-117th-Congress NHA package. The measure now goes to President, who is expected to sign it into law.

“Our bill, which I first drafted and introduced in the 116th Congress (2019-2021), directs the U.S. Department of the Interior to evaluate whether Ka‘ena Point, a treasured wilderness area on otherwise densely-populated O‘ahu, should be designated as our first NHA,” said Case. “Kaʻena Point, largely state-owned, is the perfect candidate for an NHA in Hawaiʻi given its truly unique cultural, historic and environmental heritage and qualities. I fully expect the required study to confirm that Ka‘ena Point holds valuable resources that reflect our country’s heritage and are worthy of conservation and recognition.

“The State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) 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,” said Case. “With a NHA designation, we can unlock federal funds to support existing local plans for Ka‘ena Point. The local community will be fully involved in both the study and, in the event of NHA designation, in its stewardship.

“I am grateful for the partnership of Congressman Kahele and Senator Hirono in achieving passage of our measure.”

“Kaʻena Point holds a special place for many Native Hawaiians who visit the area for traditional cultural practices & spiritual connection,” said Kahele. “The potential establishment of Kaʻena Point as a National Heritage Area will ensure the conservation and preservation of the unique cultural, archaeological & ecological features & species found nowhere else in Hawai’i”. 

Case and Kahele’s measure focuses on the undeveloped area of Kaʻena Point on the west end of Oʻahu from Mākua 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 Hawaiian tradition, is where the souls of the deceased leapt into the next plane of existence. Ka‘ena is also home to various protected species including the Hawaiian monk seal, Laysan albatross and ‘ōhai flower.

The study would include the approximately 1,500 acres of both the State of Hawaii’s natural area reserve and the state park already in place at Ka‘ena Point.

NHAs are designated to recognize and protect our nation’s unique conservation, recreation, historic, cultural, education and preservation areas. NHAs can receive federal funds to help local communities preserve and manage such resources under federal-state-community partnerships.

The text of the bill is available here .

Video of Case speaking in the U.S. House on the day the bill initially passed his Chamber on March 15, 2022, is here .

Attachments: Aerial picture of Ka‘ena Point courtesy Congressman Case

                     Other pictures of Ka‘ena Point courtesy Lindsay Young