passes to Lingle
The legislation would protect
trees that have historical value
A bill passed by state lawmakers may help save a 170-year-old hau tree on what used to be the summer palace of Queen Kaahumanu in Manoa.
Mary Steiner, the Outdoor Circle chief executive, has been assisting the owner, an elderly woman, to seek exceptional tree status for the tree.
Jeremy Lam, Malama O Manoa president, said the group recently donated more than $500 to prune the hau tree. He said the woman's sons recently sought an estimate for removing the tree.
House Bill 1848, CD1, would allow owners of "exceptional trees" to deduct from state taxes the cost of maintaining the tree, up to $3,000 a tree. Lam said: "This bill is significant because it could save this tree."
State law defines an exceptional tree as a tree, stand or grove of trees with historic or cultural value because of its age, rarity, location, size, beauty or endemic status.
The trees need to be on private property and listed on the county register of exceptional trees.
Steiner is hoping the bill, if signed into law by Gov. Linda Lingle, will encourage more people to seek exceptional tree designation for their trees. The process involves applying with the appropriate county, review by the county's arborist advisory committee and approval by the county council.
A survey by the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee found that of the approximately 970 exceptional trees in the state, only 65 are on private property.
There are two trees on private property in Manoa on the city's exceptional trees registry, Lam said, an earpod tree on Kamehameha Avenue and a sandbox tree on Oahu Avenue.
Honolulu city ordinance prohibits removing or destroying exceptional trees without approval from the City Council, except in emergencies. Violators can be fined $1,000. Pruning requires a permit from the Department of Parks and Recreation.
The bill appeared dead when lawmakers in the state House sent it back to committee. They resurrected the bill after learning the Senate had already approved it.
During debate, Rep. Joe Souki (D, Wailuku-Kahakuloa) poked fun at the bill, stating his affinity for keawe trees and suggesting that a guava tree on his property could be an exceptional tree.