Hawaii is facing a nearly $6 million funding shortfall to host the International Union for Conservation of Nation World Conservation Congress slated for September in Honolulu, an international event deemed the “Olympics of Conservation.”

Gov. David Ige has asked the Legislature for an additional $4 million out of the state general fund, leaving an almost $2 million gap to be raised from federal and private sources, according to testimony to lawmakers this month from Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Suzanne Case.

The total budget for the 10-day event is $21.54 million. The IUCN is contributing $8.26 million, and Hawaii’s portion is $13.28 million.

State Capitol.
State lawmakers are considering providing more money for Hawaii to host the “Olympics of Conservation” in September due to a budget shortfall. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii has locked down $7.23 million to date, including $4 million from the DLNR, $1.5 million in-kind from the Hawaii Convention Center, $500,000 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, $200,000 from Castle Foundation, and $200,000 from Matson among others.

Over the past six months, Hawaii organizers have raised just over $1 million. In September, conference organizers said $6 million had been raised for Hawaii’s portion.

State senators are set to hear a bill Wednesday afternoon that would appropriate more state funds for the event. The legislation has yet to identify just how much though, something lawmakers will likely work out closer to the end of session next month.

Case told lawmakers March 1 that the DLNR supports the measure as long as it does not adversely impact appropriations for other priorities in the executive budget or any existing funding to the department’s programs.

Lea Hong, state director of The Trust for Public Land, said in her testimony that the event would bring significant benefits to Hawaii, much like when Oahu hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, in 2011.

She estimated $65 million in economic benefits based on more than 8,000 delegates, workforce participants and media. She said the event would also put Hawaii on an “international platform for world conservation issues to showcase Hawaii’s knowledge and experience regarding natural and cultural resource management and sustainability.”

It will mark the first time the United States to host the quadrennial event.

The IUCN, which was created in 1948, is focused on “valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development,” according to the group’s website.

The IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practices, the site says.

The World Conservation Congress is expected to vote in September on new IUCN policies, something it does every four years. The event will also be a forum for the public to participate and showcase their environmental interests.

Hawaii was selected in May 2014 to host the 2016 Congress. Then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other top officials heralded the decision.

Read past Civil Beat coverage about the IUCN here.

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