The International Union for Conservation of Nature has chosen Hawaii as the location for the 2016 World Conservation Congress, which is expected to attract almost $50 million in tax revenue and visitor spending.

This is the first time the U.S. will host the event since the IUCN was established in 1948. Hawaii officials cheered the selection, with Gov. Neil Abercrombie calling a press conference to celebrate the news.

“This is both an honor and opportunity for us to show the entire conservation community, the world over, how Hawaii has adopted a leadership role in preserving and protecting resources, developing sustainability programs on multiple-fronts, and addressing many of the issues associated with global climate change,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “The IUCN World Conservation Congress is the largest and most prestigious of all gatherings of the conservation community. Hawaii was widely recognized as an ideal venue, including a strong expression of support from President Obama. We look forward to welcoming as many as 8,000 delegates to Hawaii in 2016.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz also issued a press release applauding the news.

“Since hosting APEC in 2011, we continue to show that our state is an ideal host for high-level international forums,” Schatz said. ”Hawaii is the perfect location for the United States to welcome global leaders to work towards solving some of the world’s greatest conservation and energy security challenges.”

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is challenging Schatz in this year’s election for U.S. Senate, said Hawaii can serve as an example to world leaders on conservation efforts.

“The Conservation Congress offers an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Hawaii’s world-class resource management programs, and I believe leaders from around the globe can learn from our unique mountain-to-sea ahupua`a resource management system,” she said in a statement.

Chipper Wichman, director and CEO of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and co-chair of the IUCN 2016 steering committee, echoed state leaders’ optimism.

“This is a massive undertaking that will require the kokua (cooperation) of dozens of organizations and hundreds of people, from those in the travel and hospitality industry, to convention planners, and of course the members of the public-private planning team,” Wichman said. “We are up to the challenge and eagerly look forward to showing representatives from more than 160 nations what Hawaii has to offer in terms of conservation leadership, sustainability initiatives, and addressing of critical issues surrounding global climate change.”

Photo: Kawainui Marsh in Kailua, Oahu on December 2013. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

— Anita Hofschneider

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