State fine-tuning forest rules

LIHUE — Clearer laws on collecting in and access to the forest are among changes the state is proposing for the rules that govern state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife lands.

Officials say the intention isn’t to cut off people from resources.

“We haven’t updated the rules since the ‘90s,” said Irene Sprecher, forest program manager for DOFAW. “We’re hoping it’ll make it clearer, but it shouldn’t impact the current use, shouldn’t restrict it more than it already is.”

Clarification and better resource management are the two main goals of the changes, according to DOFAW staff members who are putting together materials for public meetings yet to be scheduled.

The department is taking extra time to compile information on existing rules because of the nature of the comments already received.

“When they (the rule changes) were proposed in concept, there were comments about things that already exist in the rules,” Sprecher said. “Those things need to be put out there clearly.”

The changes in rules for collecting things like flowers and berries are providing the opportunity for DOFAW to put a few more people in forests to better manage resources, Sprecher said.

“It’s to provide a little bit broader scopes of different things people do for collecting — commercial or personal use — and separating out the permits, separating out what’s’ allowed,” Sprecher said.

There is a once a week restriction on forest collection and it is an activity that requires a permit.

Parking and entrance fee are also addressed in the proposed rule changes, which allow a $5 parking fee per vehicle, per day on state lands.

It is a topic consistent with the State Parks division’s consideration of charging for parking in state lots in places like Ha’ena State Park.

“Usually that’s a non-resident vehicle parking fee and usually there’s a waiver for residents to park in those areas,” Sprecher said. “It’s not our intention to charge people for coming in and out of forest reserve for use.”

There is a need for more money in DOFAW coffers, though, and charging visitors a few extra bucks to park in a lot could pay for facility maintenance and upkeep.

“There’s not a lot of financial support from government for those uses,” Sprecher said. “So funding is going back to managing those areas.”

Changing the rules to allow for entrance and parking fees is a way for DOFAW to be transparent.

“We can’t charge fees unless we state them in the rules,” Sprecher said. “That needs to be clearly put there so the public and users know, and the public needs to approve them.”

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