Public use of Public Lands. A Right or a Privilege?

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Definitions according to

  • Privilege: “the principle or condition of enjoying special rights or immunities.”
  • Right: “that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.”
  • Conservation: “the careful utilization of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion.”
  • Utilize: “To put to use, especially to find a profitable or practical use for.”
  • Trust: “a fiduciary relationship in which one person (the trustee) holds the title to property (the trust estate or trust property) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary).”

What the State Constitution says about public land in ARTICLE XI, CONSERVATION, CONTROL AND DEVELOPMENT OF RESOURCES, Section 1. “For the benefit of present and future generations, the State and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawaii’s natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the State.

All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.”

You should notice a few things about the wording in the Constitution:

  • Present and future generations are on equal standing to enjoy the benefit of ‘public lands.’
  • Land, water and air are included as natural resources.
  • The State shall promote the utilization of these natural resources.
  • That the State only holds public lands in trust for the benefit of the people.
  • This section applies to all political subdivisions of the State (eg, the counties).

The State Constitution is the highest ‘Law of the Land’ in Hawaii (ignoring Federal Law).  All statutes, rules, regulations and administrative policies are subordinate to and must ultimately conform to the requirements of the Constitution.

Is the public’s use of public land a right or a privilege?   Hold the answer in your gut…

ps. Beware of the self-appointed gatekeepers of ‘privilege’.

About wayne.blyth

Chairman of MKRUG
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