Environment

Preservation and protection of our environment is important to Senator Akaka.  His decisions on natural resource issues are guided by values instilled from a young age by his kupuna (elders) that stressed aloha for others and the importance of living in harmony with nature.  A deep respect for the environment is rooted in these values, which reflect malama `aina (care of the land) and malama kai (care of the ocean), and a respect for the ahupua`a, the Native Hawaiian land-and-ocean management system that promotes stewardship extending from the mountains  to the sea and enabled people to use such resources for their sustenance.
 
Malama`aina and malama kai guide Senator Akaka's legislative agenda to preserve and protect public lands, wilderness areas, oceans, rivers, estuaries, and living creatures on land and in the sea.  It is his belief that we can learn valuable lessons from traditional practices and values as we work to conserve and protect our precious natural resources for future generations.
           

Pollution

Senator Akaka has been a stalwart supporter of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which serves "to encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment, to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man, to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and resources important to the Nation."  He has also strongly supports environmental protection laws, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ocean Dumping Act, and Endangered Species Act.  Under NEPA, the environmental assessment and environmental impact statement process has prevented or mitigated destruction and degradation of valuable habitats and important cultural sites.  The air we breathe, water we drink, and ocean we swim in and rely on for food is safer in part because of NEPA.  NEPA has also been a major factor for increasing citizen participation and government transparency.

Our nation has come a long way in protecting our environment since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which documented the dangers of pesticides on the environment.  Silent Spring describes the impact of DDT on birds, helped launch the modern day environmental movement.  Senator Akaka believes that we must honor the great traditions, the most fundamental of which is to leave our children and grandchildren with an earth as safe, beautiful, and majestic as the one our parents and grandparents left to us. 


Global Warming

Scientists predicted more than 40 years ago that rises in global temperatures would occur if we continued to release harmful greenhouse gases from automobiles, factories, and power plants.  The debate began in Hawaii when the Mauna Loa Climate Observatory first documented evidence of increased carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere.  There is a growing consensus in the international scientific community that human activities are altering the climate system.  While local temperatures fluctuate naturally, it is noteworthy to highlight that the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990.  Global temperature increases will have serious impacts on ecosystems, fish and wildlife, human settlements, food resources, the spread of infectious diseases, and world economic development in the 21st century.  Hawaii is disproportionately susceptible to increases in sea-level and ocean temperature.  Climate models forecasting intense storms and severe weather further threaten Hawaii and call into question  our capacity to respond to natural disasters and acquire immediate relief from neighboring states. 

Senator Akaka believes that we must address global climate change now.  Developing a clean and safe energy economy is a step forward in mitigating climate change.  Clean energy will also ensure the future growth of our economy, security of our nation, and protection of the environment.  He supports policies that will transform our carbon economy to an energy efficient, green economy.  Such transformation will create job opportunities, strengthen America's competitiveness in the 21st century, and reinvigorate local communities. 

In the 110th Congress, Senator Akaka cosponsored global warming legislation, such as S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007.  This legislation incorporated recommendations from scientists, calling for an 80 percent reduction of global warming pollutants by 2050.  The bill would have established GHG emission standards for automobiles, light trucks, and new and existing power plants. 


Endangered Species


Senator Akaka has also strongly supported protection for endangered and threatened species.  Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) (P.L. 111-5), Hawaii has received about $1 million for logistical and research support to establish a second population of the endangered Maui parrotbill.  The project will collect biological information, promote captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, and restore habitat for the Maui parrotbill.  This project will also benefit 10 other diminishing species in Hawaii.

Another $8.6 million in ARRA funding is targeted for Hawaii wildlife refuges and hatcheries to promote conservation.  These funds will protect and preserve irreplaceable, beautiful, and unique parts of Hawaii like the Kealia Pond, one of the few natural wetlands remaining in the islands and a critical habitat for our endangered wetland birds.
   
Since 2000, Senator Akaka and Senator Daniel Inouye secured $5.7 million for purchase of Wao Kele O Puna and portions of the McCandless Ranch to protect critical habitats for species, including the Palila, which is the only surviving seed-eating member of the Hawaii Honeycreeper family, living in the remnant mamane forests on the west side of Mauna Kea volcano.  Senator Akaka was also instrumental in securing funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Endangered Species Recovery budget to continue recovery activities for the ‘Alala, Maui Parrotbill, Puaiohi, and Palila birds in partnership with the Zoological Society of San Diego and the state of Hawaii.  In addition, since 2008, Senators Akaka and Inouye secured $11 million for the expansion of the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.  The acquisition of additional land helps to restore habitats that are home to endangered waterbird species, migratory shorebirds, and native plants.
       

Invasive Species

The threat posed by invasive species to Hawaii's endemic native plants and animals and the economic costs of invasives are strong concerns of Senator Akaka.  Many of our irreplaceable native forests and flora are in danger of extinction because of invasive species that have come to Hawaii from other parts of the world.  This is a contributing factor to the loss of biological diversity.  Approximately 5,047 species, or 22 percent, of the 23,150 known species of plants and animals in Hawaii are not native, and the rate of new introductions to Hawaii has increased from one per year to an average of 35 per year.

At the federal level, Senator Akaka has supported initiatives to combat invasive species, in order to protect our country's unique environment and wildlife.  According to scientists, land managers, and environmental advocates who testified at a Senate National Parks Subcommittee field hearing, which Senator Akaka chaired at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2006.  These witnesses testified on the need for a two-pronged approach to this problem, which includes eradicating established invasive species while preventing the introduction of new ones. 

In the 110th Congress, Senator Akaka added a provision to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act that was signed into law (P.L. 110-229), which encourages the use of cooperative agreements to protect the natural and cultural resources on and around our National Parks.  This Akaka provision gives the Secretary of the Interior the authority to enter agreements with Federal, public, nonprofit organizations, and even private landowners to protect our coasts, wetlands, and watersheds contained within and outside of national park boundaries.  Just as important as having cooperative agreements is the ability of these entities to work together and use them to combat the spread of invasive species. For Hawaii this provision encourages collaborative efforts focused on reducing the decline in threatened and endangered species, as well as the significant financial burden estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to Hawaii's agricultural industry, tourism, real estate, and water quality.  Further, this provision allows the people of this nation to take an important step in controlling invasive species that are crossing geographic and jurisdictional boundaries. Land managers and other involved governments and organizations will have another tool to help address their invasive species management issues within and outside of National Park System units.

In Congress, Senator Akaka has championed the fight against invasive species and initiated Dear Colleague letters urging increased funding for programs to combat invasive species.  In May 2009, the state of Hawaii received $4.5 million under ARRA to fight invasive plant species across the islands.  Specific projects on both state and private lands will be selected by the state government.  This funding will be a big help in our battle to save our unique Hawaiian plants that exist nowhere else.  Senator Akaka has also secured funding to protect Hawaii from the threat of brown tree snakes. 
   

Oceans, Reefs, and Fisheries

As an advocate of effective stewardship of our ocean resources, Senator Akaka has sponsored and cosponsored legislation to ensure that our oceans and reefs are protected and resources managed in a sustainable manner.  NEPA related laws governing water, ocean dumping, coastal zone management have had my strong support.  In addition, Senator Akaka has supported National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration coral reef research and conservation programs and efforts to monitor global climate change.  Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean.  Our reefs are a thriving, beautiful, and complex resource that are vital to life on earth.  Reefs protect us from ocean storms and are an integral part of the Hawaii coastline and major attraction for our visitor industry.  

In the 106th Congress, Senator Akaka was an original cosponsor of the Oceans Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-256) that established a national oceans commission to review the laws and regulations governing oceans, and to make recommendations on how to improve them.  He supported President William Clinton's Executive Order implementing the Act.  The Commission's report was released in 2005, resulted in several proposals currently being considered by Congress.

Working with Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka funded the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Conservation Program at $25 million since 2000.  He sponsored, the Coral Reef Resource Conservation and Management Act (1999), which created a $25 million research grant program to conserve reefs under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.  Senator Akaka has also taken the lead on Dear Colleagues letters from reef-states (FL, HI) in support of appropriations for coral reef research and education.

Senator Akaka supported the establishment of the Humpback Whale Sanctuary and the establishment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island (NWHI) Marine Sanctuary.  This structured process gave fishermen, scientists, federal and state agencies, and the Native Hawaiian community, opportunities to voice concerns.  On June 15, 2006, the NWHI was proclaimed a National Marine Monument, making it the world's largest marine conservation area.  Senator Akaka continues to monitor the progress to ensure the preservation, protection, and restoration of marine life in the Humpback Whale Sanctuary and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. 

Ocean debris is a problem which Senator Akaka is deeply concerned about.  It is causes untold damage on marine life and deteriorates the quality of water to sustain fish and coral reef ecosystems.  Senator Akaka cosponsored the Marine Debris, Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act (P.L. 109-449), which established a Marine Debris Prevention and Removal Program to reduce and prevent the occurrence and adverse impacts of marine debris on the marine environment and navigational safety. 

Senator Akaka's interest is in protecting marine life, such as turtles, sea-birds, and fishing by-catch, also has resulted in funding to increase observers on the Hawaii longline fishing fleet.  Additionally, he has supported the introduction of fishing gear and methods to decrease the number of by-catch turtles and other species by the long-line fleet.


Public, Forests, and National Parks

Having served as a senior member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, and a member of the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, Senator Akaka knows that preservation of our national parks, forests, and public lands is of utmost importance.  Public lands are valued assets that must be properly managed for the benefit of all Americans and future generations. 

In 1992, Senator Akaka's bill, the Hawaii Tropical Forest Recovery Act was signed into law (P.L. 102-574), authorizing the establishment of the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest.  In April 2005, the state of Hawaii formally requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take the necessary steps to establish the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest as provided by the Act.  The Act also resulted in new and expanded facilities at the Institute of Pacific Island Forestry.

Our nation is blessed with abundant forest lands that are home to wildlife.  It is our obligation to protect and preserve these habitats and sensitive ecosystems from potentially harmful human activities.  Senator Akaka strongly supported the Clinton Administration's initiative to inventory and protect remaining roadless areas in national forests.  When the Bush Administration attempted to undercut its protection of roadless areas, Senator Akaka wrote to President George W. Bush urging him to uphold and defend the U.S. Forest Service's Roadless Area Conservation Rule to protect 58.5 million acres of America's wild national forests from road-building.  In March 2009, Senator Akaka wrote to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the Agriculture, to urge that the inventoried roadless areas in our national forests not be harmed while legal challenges are being resolved.  Since the 107th Congress, Senator Akaka has cosponsored the Roadless Area Conservation Act, which would codify the Roadless Area Conservation Rule into law. 

Land banking for conservation and environmental purposes has also been a legislative focal point of Senator Akaka. He has strongly supported the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy program.  Hawaii has benefitted from this program.  The McCandless Ranch received $2.3 million to protect critical habitat and $3.4 million was provided for the purchase of Wao Kele o Puna.  Senator Akaka  led the effort to pass the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Expansion Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-481).  Additionally, he was instrumental in securing federal funding to help purchase Mu‘olea Point on Maui.


Preservation of Natural and Cultural Resources   

As past Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources the Subcommittee on National Parks, Senator Akaka has advocated for expanding, enhancing and caring for the nation's and Hawaii's national parks and refuges.  He was four times named a "Friend of the National Parks," by the National Parks Conservation Association, based on his voting record in support of our nation's parks.

Senator Akaka supports appropriate funding for national parks management and protection of sensitive ecosystems.  In the 111th Congress, he wrote to chairpersons of appropriation subcommittees to request an increase in funding for national parks and the National Wildlife Refuge System.  For Hawaii, ARRA includes $15.7 million for Hawaii National Parks to create jobs, enhance visitor experiences, and conserve Hawaii's heritage and history for future generations.
       
He has also advocated for cultural resources and the voice of the people, insisting that the National Park Service include interpretations of the histories and cultures relevant to park lands.  In the 107th Congress, he introduced S.329, the Peopling of America Theme Study Act, to study the impact of various migrations on the history of America, and to commemorate major peopling or migrations.  In addition, Senator Akaka is a strong supporter of the Save America's Treasure program that protects our nation's endangered and irreplaceable cultural heritage.  In December 2008, a $350,000 grant was made to Project Ola ‘Ai‘opio, a Park Service initiative to restore the ‘Ai‘opio Fishtrap located in the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.  This grant will allow for the stabilization of the kuapa (fishtrap walls) and aid in preserving the fishtrap.  Such efforts are encouraging, as management of the pond may one day lead to its use for sustainable acquaculture.            

In the 111th Congress, four of Senator Akaka's bills, which he introduced in the 110th Congress, were included in H.R. 146, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which was signed into law (P.L. 111-11) on March 30, 2009.  The four bills are:  (1) the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, which authorizes a memorial at Kalaupapa National Historical Park to honor and perpetuate the memory of those Hansen's disease patients who were forcibly relocated to the Kalaupapa community; (2) the Na Hoa Pili O Kaloko-Honokohau Advisory Commission Reauthorization Act, which reauthorizes the Commission until December 31, 2018; (3) the Outdoor Recreation Act of 1963 Amendments Act, which authorizes $500,000 to the National Tropical Botanical Garden (for Fiscal Years 2008 through 2017); and (4) the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, which establishes a national policy for preserving and managing paleontological resources found on federal lands.

Aware of the significance of World War II Japanese American internment sites, Senator Akaka worked to ensure that this chapter in our nation's history is not forgotten.  He supported President  Clinton's initiative to document and establish a National Historical Park at Manzanar, California, to preserve the site and history of the Japanese Americans interned during World War II.

In the 109th Congress, he was an original cosponsor of S. 1719, a bill to provide for the preservation of the historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II, introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye on September 19, 2005.  The House companion measure, H.R. 1492 was signed into law (P.L. 109-441) on December 21, 2006.  The Act directs the Secretary of the Interior to identify, protect, and acquire historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.  Four sites are designated for acquisition:  Jerome, Arkansas; Rohwer, Arkansas; Topaz, Utah; and Honouliuli, Hawaii.

In the 111th Congress, Senator Akaka is an original cosponsor of S. 871, which was introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye on April 23, 2009.  This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a Special Resources Study of the Honouliuli Gulch and associated sites located in the state of Hawaii in order to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating these sites as a unit of the National Park System.

Senator Akaka's leadership on the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks resulted in the enactment of the Air Tour Management Act of 2000, which was included as part of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (P.L. 106-181).  The law required the Federal Aviation Administration and National Park Service to work with air tour companies to develop plans for reasonable air tour traffic around national parks.  This resulted in Hawaii being the first state in the nation to have air tour management plans for its national parks (Hawaii Volcano National Park, Haleakala, and Kalaupapa), creating more positive experiences for visitors and residents in and around national parks.

In addition, Senator Akaka has sponsored many park bills for Hawaii that have been enacted into law.  They include:

    * Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Adjustment Act of 1998 and of 2000
    * Pu`uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park Addition Act of 2001
    * Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Addition Act of 2003
    * Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail Act of 2000
    * Palmyra Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) ($1.25 M for FY 2001)
    * Hawaiian National Park Language Correction Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-510), which changed
       the statutory names of certain Hawaii parks to reflect their correct Hawaiian spelling.

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