Hawaiian Homelands:

Hawaii's Efforts to Address Land Use Issues

RCED-94-24: Published: May 26, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal withdrawals of Hawaiian homelands, focusing on: (1) federal, state, and judicial opinions on the federal government's trust responsibility to native Hawaiians; (2) territorial governors' authority to withdraw certain Hawaiian homelands; and (3) the reasonableness of the methodology used to estimate the lost income from and the current market value for specific parcels of land.

GAO found that: (1) Hawaii disagrees with Departments of the Interior and Justice that the federal government does not have a trust responsibility to native Hawaiians; (2) state and federal courts have concluded that the government currently has no trust responsibility, but federal courts have yet to determine whether such a responsibility existed while Hawaii was a territory; (3) Hawaiian courts and its Attorney General have concluded that the federal government had a trust responsibility during the territorial period and the state Attorney General believes that the trust responsibility continues to exist; (4) territorial governors lacked the authority to withdraw Hawaiian homelands for nonfederal public purposes; (5) many of the governors' unauthorized withdrawals benefitted native Hawaiians or involved lands that were unsuitable for authorized homeland uses; (6) the President had the authority to withdraw homelands for federal purposes and he could have delegated the authority to the territorial governors or ratified their actions; (7) the methodologies to estimate income loss and current market value were generally reasonable; (8) Hawaii plans to submit a claim for federal compensation for the withdrawn lands; and (9) if Congress decides that compensation is merited, the amount of compensation should reflect rental revenues received and benefits to native Hawaiians from the withdrawn homelands.

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