The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the National Heritage Area Act, which includes the Kaena Point National Heritage Area Act.

If signed into law by President Biden — as expected — the legislation would require the Department of the Interior to study the feasibility of designating Kaena Point on Oahu as a National Heritage Area.

“A National Heritage Area designation would bring much-needed federal support to maintain and manage Kaena Point, as well as protect the native and endangered species that inhabit the site,” Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a press release. “This bill will help preserve this precious ecosystem and ensure it can be appreciated for years to come.”

Hirono introduced the bill in the Senate, which was passed earlier this week. Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele introduced the House companion.

Aerial of Kaena Point
An aerial view of Kaena Point, which is located on the western end of Oahu. Courtesy: Rep. Ed Case

Case said the DOI would evaluate whether Kaena Point — “a treasured wilderness area on otherwise densely-populated Oahu” — should become Hawaii’s first National Heritage Area.

“I fully expect the required study to confirm that Kaena Point holds valuable resources that reflect our country’s heritage and are worthy of conservation and recognition,” Case said in a separate press release.

Case noted that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has already created a management plan for the Kaena Point Stewardship Area.

“The local community will be fully involved in both the study and, in the event of NHA designation, in its stewardship,” he said.

Kahele said Kaena Point “holds a special place for many Native Hawaiians who visit the area for traditional cultural practices and spiritual connection.” Its potential establishment as an NHA “will ensure the conservation and preservation of the unique cultural, archaeological and ecological features and species found nowhere else in Hawaii.”

Kaena Point is the site of the last intact sand dune ecosystem in Hawaii and is said to be named after a sibling of the Hawaiian goddess Pele.

It also includes a leina ka uhane — “an important recognized cultural site that, according to Hawaiian tradition, is where the souls of the deceased leapt into the next plane of existence,” according to the press release from Case.

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