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Hawaiʻi lawmakers squash bill imposing fees to pay for conservation

This 2018 photo shows a lookout point for Waimea Canyon on Kauaʻi. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)
Jennifer McDermott/AP
This 2018 photo shows a lookout point for Waimea Canyon on Kauaʻi. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)

A visitor impact fee for out-of-state tourists at state-managed parks and trails will not be happening soon.

Conference committee at the state Legislature brought a flurry of bills to an end on Friday, including legislation for a visitor impact fee. Despite widespread support, Senate Bill 304 died without a final vote.

The original proposal would have required visitors to pay a fee to visit parks and trails managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. An early version of the measure set the fee at $50, but lawmakers later deleted the dollar amount. The money would have gone directly to a conservation fund managed by the DLNR.

By early Friday, lawmakers discussed removing the fee entirely and replacing it with funding for an implementation plan.

Without approval from the money committees, the bill was never recalled Friday.

If Hawaiʻi lawmakers had agreed on a visitor impact fee, it would have been the first in the nation to do so statewide.

A pay-to-play model has long been a national park standard. Several state parks already require entrance fees, but an all-access license would have been something new to Hawaiʻi.

The concept is not wholly innovative on its own, with other countries like Palau and Ecuador's Galapagos Islands having their own $100 green fees for visitors.

Since 2019, the state has transitioned certain overrun sites to reservation-only systems: Hāʻena State Park on Kauaʻi, Diamond Head State Monument on Oʻahu, and ʻĪao Valley State Monument and Waiʻānapanapa State Park on Maui.

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