With the private sector failing to pony up more money, Hawaii lawmakers somewhat reluctantly agreed Friday to put in another $4 million to host one of the world’s biggest conservation events this September.

Hawaii was selected in May 2014 to host the International Union for Conservation of Nation’s World Conservation Congress, which will mark the first time the United States has ever hosted it.

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.

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State lawmakers on Friday agreed to provide $4 million more for Hawaii to host the “Olympics of Conservation” in September. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii has locked down $7.23 million to date, including $4 million from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, $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.

But with private donations not coming in as high as anticipated, Gov. David Ige asked lawmakers to provide an additional $4 million. That would still leave a nearly $2 million gap to be raised from federal and private sources.

Lawmakers were considering taking the other $4 million out of DLNR’s budget, but they eventually relented and agreed to appropriate the money straight out of the general fund. The full House and Senate still have to approve it before the end of session on May 5.

The extra money will make the state the biggest single sponsor of the event, and Sen. Kalani English said he expects that to mean prominent placement of state logos at the event.

English and Sen. Mike Gabbard co-chaired a joint House-Senate conference committee that worked out the final language of the bill. Reps. Ryan Yamane, Tom Brower and Ty Cullen co-chaired the committee on the House side.

Lawmakers had considered requiring matching private funds in order to release the extra state money, but they took that out of the bill.

Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Jill Tokuda, who chair the House and Senate money committees, underscored the significance of the additional investment to host the event.

During a budget meeting Friday afternoon, Tokuda said she expects organizers to be vigilant in getting more financial support.

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

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.

Read past Civil Beat coverage about the event here.

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