DLNR and HDOA Announce Shared Path Forward for Progress on Pasture Lands

Posted on Feb 8, 2023 in Main






Feb. 8, 2023

 (HONOLULU) – The recently appointed leadership teams for the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) are working to resolve a long-standing issue on the management of pasture lands.

DLNR leases or permits ranching across approximately 100,000 acres while also managing other uses on these lands including native forest protection and restoration, endangered species habitat, hunting, public trails, and customary and traditional gathering practices.

In 2003, the legislature passed Act 90, which established a process for determining whether certain lands could be transferred from DLNR jurisdiction to HDOA, based on a review by the boards of both departments.

Since then nearly 40,000 acres, mostly plowed crop lands, have been transferred to HDOA and the State’s Agribusiness Development Corporation. “We are referring to those completed transfers as Phase 1,” explained DLNR Chair Dawn Chang. “Now, we are ready to get to work on Phase 2 – farm and pasture lands that both departments see fit to transfer.”

“We thank legislators, as well as ranchers, for highlighting the importance of this issue,” said HDOA Chair Sharon Hurd. “With the Green Administration’s leaders of both boards (Chang and Hurd also chair the Board of Land and Natural Resources-BLNR and the State Board of Agriculture-BOA), working together as a team, we have been meeting to find agreement and a plan for transfers, as well as a process for addressing multiuse areas,” Hurd added.

DLNR and HDOA made major progress by deciding that more than 50 leases and permits, representing more than 16,000 acres, have a mutual agreement to transfer to HDOA and will be put before the BLNR and BOA for approval.

Another 70 leases and permits are also being offered for transfer by DLNR and are under review by HDOA. “We look forward to making progress in transferring these Phase 2 parcels and will communicate with the legislature about the funding needed to conduct surveys and other due diligence necessary to finalize them transfers,” Hurd said.

“We have heard from many stakeholders including ranchers, trail users, conservationists, gatherers, and lawmakers,” Hurd continued. “This is a complex issue. A mandate to transfer all the lands to HDOA has unintended consequences for these stakeholders, as well as the agencies. We hope to chart a different course that has both progress and balance.”

Chang said “I’m directing DLNR to focus on processing transfers we agree are win-win, as well as negotiating with stakeholders on the multiple-use lands. We are putting all available lands on the negotiating table to see whether there are overlooked opportunities to support agriculture, while safeguarding other public trust resources. DLNR and HDOA recognize that each parcel should be reviewed individually, using the existing process of Act 90 that requires the expertise of both boards to prescribe how to best manage natural, cultural, and agricultural resources. Our path forward is consistent with the recommendations of the Act 90 Working Group, formed in 2021, to carefully consider this multi-faceted issue.”

Hurd concluded, “We are excited to have a shared vision on the path forward. With so many land issues, DLNR and HDOA need to both be at the table to make headway.”

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