THIRTY-SECOND LEGISLATURE, 2023
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
relating to the environment.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that Hawaii's natural resources, including reefs, beaches, oceans, forests, streams, estuaries, and shorelines, provide irreplaceable and invaluable benefits to residents and visitors. These natural resources are critical to generating billions of dollars for Hawaii's economy and the local community and supporting thousands of jobs for residents. Hawaii's natural resources are inseparable from the State's culture and directly support the visitor industry and the livelihoods that depend on the visitor industry.
The legislature further finds that despite the incredible value of Hawaii's natural resources, the State currently invests less than one per cent of its budget to protect, restore, and manage these assets. To leave a healthy natural resources legacy for future generations of Hawaii residents and visitors, the State must urgently address the estimated $360,000,000 annual conservation funding gap, and provide sustained, increased funding for Hawaii's natural resources and environment.
The legislature also finds that Hawaii's natural environment faces significant environmental pressures from heavy use by persons traveling from throughout the world to enjoy the State's natural beauty and resources. Hawaii's natural environment also faces increasing challenges as a result of climate change. Continuing to underinvest in the protection and care of Hawaii's natural resources poses a significant liability to the State's visitor industry, the stability of the natural systems, including water quality, and economic resilience. Hawaii residents already contribute significantly to the protection and management of the State's natural resources through taxes. With escalating visitor impacts, there is an immediate need for additional resources to protect, restore, and manage Hawaii's natural resources.
The legislature believes that it is reasonable and timely to ask visitors to Hawaii who enjoy local natural resources to further contribute to the protection, restoration, and care of these resources. Visitor green fees have been successfully implemented in other visitor destinations around the world, including the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, and Palau. A visitor green fee program will provide additional resources to protect Hawaii's natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations while supporting the creation of thousands of jobs for Hawaii residents. A $50 fee paid by visitors who enjoy Hawaii's public parks, beaches, and trails could generate up to $400,000,000 each year to enable the State to leave future generations with a healthy and safe environment.
The legislature additionally finds that a visitor green fee program can support economic diversification and create thousands of public and private jobs in Hawaii's economy. A visitor green fee program can also help finance the achievement of the 2030 Aloha+ challenge natural resource management target, adopted by the State in July 2014, and supported by the legislature, governor, four county mayors, office of Hawaiian affairs, and partners across the State. The legislature now believes it is imperative to raise additional revenues to leave a positive environmental legacy for Hawaii's future generations and that a visitor green fee will provide a reasonable and appropriate way to generate these needed revenues.
Accordingly, the purpose of this Act is to:
(1) Require the department of land and natural resources to establish a visitor green fee program to collect fees from visitors to the State for the provision of sustained and increased funding for the protection, restoration, and care of Hawaii's natural, cultural, and outdoor recreational resources and build the resilience of these resources to the impacts of climate change and local threats;
(2) Establish the Hawaii environmental legacy commission to guide the disbursement of funds collected from the visitor green fee program; and
(3) Establish the Hawaii environmental legacy special fund.
SECTION 2. Chapter 171, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new part to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:
"Part . Visitor green fee program
§171-A Definitions. As used in this part:
"Commission" means the Hawaii environmental legacy commission.
"License" means the license issued by the department that allows visitors to use state natural resources, including beaches, parks, trails, coastlines, and the environment.
"Nonprofit organization" means a private, nonprofit organization with nonprofit status acknowledged by the United States Internal Revenue Service that qualifies under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended, and has among its charitable purposes the preservation, restoration, management, or interpretation of natural or cultural resources for scientific, historic, educational, recreational, scenic, wildlife, or open-space purposes, the protection of the natural environment or biological resources, the preservation or enhancement of wildlife, or the protection or interpretation of native Hawaiian cultural resources.
"Nonresident" means an individual who is not a resident.
"Resident" means an individual who has:
(1) Filed or paid state income taxes for the immediately previous tax period; or
(2) Established domicile in the State, as evidenced by documentation showing the individual's address, including any of the following:
(A) A valid state driver's license;
(B) A valid state civil identification card;
(C) A valid school identification card; or
(D) Any other official document issued to the individual by a government agency, financial institution, insurance company, or utility company in the State.
"Special fund" means the Hawaii environmental legacy special fund.
§171-B Visitor green fee program. (a) There is established a visitor green fee program to advance the 2030 Aloha+ challenge natural resource management targets. Under the program, to be administered by the department, nonresidents shall pay the visitor green fee in order to obtain a license to use Hawaii's public beaches, parks, trails, coastlines, and environment. Visitor green fees collected shall be deposited into the Hawaii environmental legacy special fund established pursuant to section 171-D.
(b) Beginning July 1, 2024, it shall be unlawful for any nonresident of the State who has attained the age of fifteen, except for members of the armed forces of the United States of America on active duty, to visit a state park, beach, state-owned forest, or other state-owned natural area or hike on a trail on state-owned land without first obtaining a license pursuant to this part.
(c) The department shall establish convenient opportunities for nonresidents to purchase a license, including through a mobile application and an internet website. The department may also establish a separate retail license program to enable retail establishments and nonprofit organizations to sell licenses.
(d) The initial visitor green fee shall be $50 per person.
(e) The chairperson may adjust the visitor green fee by rule not more than once every five years, at the rate of the consumer price index change from July 1, 2024, compounded annually, and rounded to the nearest dollar.
(f) A license shall be in effect for a three hundred sixty-five day period, including the day of issuance.
(g) The department may adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91 as necessary to effectuate the purposes of this section.
§171-C Hawaii environmental legacy commission. (a) There is established within the department the Hawaii environmental legacy commission to guide the department's disbursement of the visitor green fee funds to achieve the 2030 Aloha+ challenge natural resource management targets, support conservation workforce development and economic diversification, and ensure stakeholder engagement, transparency, and effectiveness of the program.
(b) The commission shall be composed of the following voting members, to be appointed without need for confirmation by the senate:
(1) One representative of a nonprofit environmental organization with expertise in the protection, restoration, and care of terrestrial natural resources, to be appointed by the chairperson;
(2) One representative of a nonprofit environmental organization with expertise in the protection, restoration, and care of marine and coastal natural resources, to be appointed by the chairperson;
(3) One representative of a nonprofit environmental organization with expertise in climate change mitigation and resiliency, to be appointed by the chairperson;
(4) Not more than two members who are staff of the department or its attached agencies, to be appointed by the chairperson;
(5) The director of the office of planning and sustainable development, or the director's designee;
(6) Not more than two representatives from the Native Hawaiian community who have expertise in the protection, restoration, care, and interpretation of native Hawaiian cultural resources, to be appointed by the chairperson;
(7) The president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii tourism authority, or the president and chief executive officer's designee;
(8) One youth representative between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, inclusive, at the time of appointment that works or has worked in the field of environmental sustainability or restoration, to be appointed by the chairperson; and
(9) One representative from the visitor and tourism industry, to be appointed by the president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii tourism authority.
(c) Commission members shall annually elect a chair and vice-chair of the commission from among its members.
(d) The commission shall approve allocation of funding, including grants, from funds deposited in the special fund. Moneys deposited into the special fund shall be allocated for direct expenditure by state agencies and for grants for projects that directly support achievement of the 2030 Aloha+ challenge natural resource management target, including for projects with one or more of the following purposes:
(1) Protection, restoration, or enhancement of terrestrial or marine natural resources, or a combination thereof; provided that up to ten per cent of each grant awarded may be allocated for resource management to ensure the long-term sustainability of state natural resources;
(2) Enhancement of interpretive and educational facilities and programs related to the State's natural and cultural resources and the protection of those resources;
(3) Increase of resilience and adaptation of the State's natural resources with environmentally beneficial strategies to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change, including coastal erosion, sea level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, destruction of reefs, and other impacts; and
(4) Removal and control of invasive species and propagation and planting of native species.
(e) In awarding grants from the special fund, the commission shall prioritize projects that directly support achievement of the 2030 Aloha+ challenge natural resource management target and:
(1) Create jobs for Hawaii residents;
(2) Provide significant long-term protection, restoration, and enhancement of Hawaii's natural and cultural resources;
(3) Increase the enjoyability of participating in outdoor recreational activities for residents and visitors of the State;
(4) Involve local communities in the design, implementation, and long-term management of the project; and
(5) Protect, enhance, or restore natural resources that contribute to Native Hawaiian cultural practices and that have demonstrated support from Native Hawaiian residents.
(f) The commission may adopt procedures and guidelines for the prioritization and allocation of moneys from the special fund, including direct grant or competitive grant processes; provided that the commission shall hold at least one hearing in each county to receive public comments before adopting grant guidelines.
(g) A simple majority of commission members shall establish a quorum necessary to approve allocations from the fund.
(h) The commission shall hold meetings in public consistent with chapter 92 and any other applicable laws. The commission may hold its meetings in person or online via the Internet, or a combination thereof.
(i) Commission members shall serve without compensation but may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses, including travel expenses, necessary for the performance of their duties.
(j) Beginning January 2026, the department shall publish an annual report, to be reviewed by the commission, no later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session of the legislature on how the Hawaii environmental legacy special fund achieves the 2030 Aloha+ challenge natural resource management target and the benefits that accrue or will accrue from those expenditures to state residents, visitors, and natural resources.
§171-D Hawaii environmental legacy special fund. (a) There is established in the state treasury a Hawaii environmental legacy special fund, into which shall be deposited:
(1) All proceeds from visitor green fees and licenses purchased pursuant to the visitor green fee program established under section 171-B;
(2) Appropriations made by the legislature; and
(3) Grants and gifts made to the special fund.
(b) Moneys deposited into the special fund shall be used and allocated as directed by the commission pursuant to section 171-C(d) and (e) and as follows:
(1) At least fifty per cent per fiscal year shall be used for grants to local governments, nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations;
(2) Not more than fifty percent per fiscal year shall be allocated to state agencies;
(3) Up to twenty-five per cent per fiscal year may be used to enhance state management of natural resources, implementation of state regulatory programs designed to protect natural resources, and enforcement of natural resource protection laws and regulations;
(4) Not more than five per cent per fiscal year of the amount allocated to state agencies pursuant to paragraph (2) shall be used to administer this part; and
(5) Not less than ninety-five percent per fiscal year shall be used for the purposes described in this section."
SECTION 3. In codifying the new sections added by section 2 of this Act, the revisor of statutes shall substitute appropriate section numbers for the letters used in designating the new sections in this Act.
SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Department of Land and Natural Resources; Visitor Green Fee Program; Hawaii Environmental Legacy Commission; Special Fund
Requires Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a visitor green fee program to collect fees from nonresidents via a license to use state natural resources, to be used for the protection, restoration, and care of Hawaii's natural, cultural, and outdoor recreational resources and build the resilience of these resources to the impacts of climate change and local threats. Establishes the Hawaii environmental legacy commission to guide the disbursement of visitor green fee program funds. Establishes the Hawaii environmental legacy special fund.
The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.