Environment drives DLNR budget bid
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is asking the Legislature to increase its operating budget next year to almost $92 million -- $15 million more than current spending.
Three items account for nearly two-thirds of the requested 19.5 percent increase:
» $4.7 million more for the Natural Area Reserves Special Fund, funded by a portion of the conveyance tax, as spelled out in the Legacy Land Act passed last year. The money would be used to acquire important conservation lands, manage state Natural Area Reserves and protect watersheds.
» $4 million more for the land Conservation Special Fund, also to be used for land acquisition.
» $1 million more in general state funds to provide help fund environmental education centers such as the Hawaii Nature Center.
Of the proposed increases announced by DLNR Director Peter Young yesterday, $9.7 million would come from state special funds, which are established for a specific purpose; $2.9 million would come from increases in federal funds; and $2.6 million, from the state general fund.
Young called the request "unprecedented in scope and scale," and said it "demonstrates Gov. (Linda) Lingle's support and commitment to implement more programs and initiatives aimed at protecting our natural and cultural resources for the benefit of future generations."
Young said key initiatives will include:
» $783,500 to hire private security guards to patrol 22 state parks and a number of small boat harbors. These guards can deter vandalism and alcohol violations, which will free DLNR's conservation officers to "focus on cultural and natural resources," Young said, such as issuing citations for fishing and hunting violations and for inappropriate activities on historical sites.
» $650,000 to work toward establishing flow standards for Hawaii streams, a crucial step in managing the state's waters as a public trust. The DLNR's Water Commission will evaluate the 1,242 diversions from 376 perennial streams statewide.
» $486,000 to power-wash state park restrooms twice a month.
» $110,000 more for beach restoration projects.
Young said the DLNR also will ask for $72 million in capital improvement project funding, to include $10 million for small boat harbors, $10 million for state parks and $17 million for Maui County's ferry.