Stiffer penalties better protect public lands
The state Legislature has raised fines and penalties for violations on public lands.
INCREASED fines and penalties for violations on state and conservation lands put needed brawn into resource protections and provide some funding to help in restoration.
The revisions, passed by the Legislature this year, also will serve as a more powerful deterrent to thieves because it allows the Department of Land and Natural Resources to charge a fine based on the market value of the resource damaged and the worth of a habitat and the environment.
Penalties for violations on unencumbered public lands, mostly forests and coastal areas, were raised from $500 a day to $1,000 a day for the first offense and to $4,000 a day on subsequent violations. People who use public lands for prohibited activities face $5,000 to $20,000 fines. Fines for conservation land violations, set at a $2,000 ceiling, were increased to as much as $15,000 a day.
The provision on market values strengthens the law because oftentimes the resource removed can be sold for great profit. For example, thieves who illegally cut koa trees could see a $500 fine as just the cost of doing business since the wood would yield tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, the department can now assess a fine that considers the loss to the natural environment and the cost of restoration, which is as important.
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