What does the DLNR do?

Here's what the Department of Land and Natural Resources does, and why it matters

Hawaii Independent Staff

“Enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of the people of Hawaii nei, and its visitors, in partnership with others from the public and private sectors.” — Department of Land and Natural Resources Mission Statement

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is responsible for “managing, administering, and exercising control over public lands, water resources, ocean waters, navigable streams, coastal areas (except commercial harbors), minerals, and all interests therein.”

DLNR is headed by an executive Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) which sets policy for the Department to execute. The director of DLNR also serves as the chair of BLNR, the chair of the Commission on Water Resource Management, and as the state’s Historic Preservation Officer.

The Board and the Commission

BLNR is composed of seven members: one from each of the four land districts (county), two at large, and the chairperson (the executive head of the department). Members are nominated and, with the consent of the Senate, appointed by the Governor for a four-year term. No more than three members of the board may be from the same political party. Any member having any interest—direct or indirect—in any matter before the board must disqualify him/herself from voting on or participating in the discussion of the matter.

BLNR convenes twice monthly to review and take action on department submittals, including land leases and Conservation District Use Applications (CDUAs). Testimony from the public on program actions, development plans, permit applications and all other BLNR actions are accepted and heard at this time. The BLNR is governed by Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 171-4.

The Commission on Water Resource Management administers the State Water Code, which was created by the 1987 Hawaii State Legislature. The commission’s general mission is to protect and enhance the water resources of the State of Hawaii through wise and responsible management.

There are a total of seven members on the commission. The chairperson of the BLNR (director of DLNR) also serves as chairperson of the Water Commission, and the other ex-officio member is always the Director of the State Department of Health. The other five members are appointed by the Governor from lists submitted by a nominating committee, subject to confirmation by the Senate.


DLNR’s jurisdiction encompasses nearly 1.3 million acres of state lands, beaches, and coastal waters as well as 750 miles of coastline (the fourth longest in the country), which it manages through 10 divisions and offices. DLNR’s jurisdiction encompasses state parks, historical sites, forests and forest reserves, aquatic life and its sanctuaries, public fishing areas, boating, ocean recreation, and coastal programs, wildlife and its sanctuaries, game management areas, public hunting areas and natural area reserves.

Division of Aquatic Resources

Manages the state’s marine and freshwater resources through programs in commercial fisheries and aquaculture; aquatic resources protection, enhancement and education; and recreational fisheries. Major program areas include projects to maximize commercial fishery and aquaculture productivity, protecting native and resident aquatic species and their habitat, and providing facilities and opportunities for recreational fishing consistent with the interests of the state. Issues fishing licenses.

Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation

Responsible for the management and administration of statewide ocean recreation and coastal areas programs pertaining to the ocean waters and navigable streams of the state (exclusive of commercial harbors) which include 21 small boat harbors, 54 launching ramps, 13 offshore mooring areas, 10 designated ocean water areas, 108 designated ocean recreation management areas, associated aids to navigation throughout the state, and beaches encumbered with easements in favor of the public. Registers small vessels.

Bureau of Conveyances

Maintains an accurate, timely and permanent record system for title to real property. The bureau examines, records, indexes and microfilms over 344,000 Regular System and Land Court documents and maps annually; issues Land Court Certificates of Title; certifies copies of matters of record; and researches Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) requests. Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a single statewide recording office.

Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands

The Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands is responsible for overseeing approximately 2 million acres of private and public lands that lie within the State Land Use Conservation District. In addition, to privately and publicly zoned Conservation District lands, OCCL is responsible for overseeing beach and marine lands out to the seaward extend of the state’s jurisdiction

Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement

Responsible for enforcement activities of the Department. The division, with full police powers, enforces all state laws and rules involving state lands, state parks, historic sites, forest reserves, aquatic life and wildlife areas, coastal zones, conservation districts, state shores, as well as county ordinances involving county parks. The division also enforces laws relating to firearms, ammunition and dangerous weapons.

Engineering Division

Engineering Division provides engineering services and technical assistance to other departmental divisions and other state agencies to implement capital improvement or repair and maintenance projects and administer programs for water and land development, mineral resources development, and prevention of natural disasters.

Division of Forestry and Wildlife

Responsible for the management of state-owned forests, natural areas, public hunting areas and plant and wildlife sanctuaries. Program areas cover watershed protection, native resources protection, including unique ecosystems and endangered species of plants and wildlife, outdoor recreation and commercial forestry. Issues hunting permits.

State Historic Preservation Division

Works to preserve and sustain reminders of earlier times which link the past to the present. SHPD’s three branches, History and Culture, Archaeology and Architecture, strive to accomplish this goal through a number of different activities. The division’s statewide Inventory of Historic Properties contains information on more than 38,000 historic sites in Hawaii. Reviews of development projects are the primary means of lessening the effects of change on our historic and cultural assets.

Land Division

Responsible for the management of S\state-owned lands in ways that will promote the well-being of Hawaii’s people and insure that these lands are used in accordance with the goals, policies and plans of the state. Lands that are not set aside for use by other government agencies come within the direct purview of the division. The division also serves as an office of record and maintains a central repository of all government documents dating back to the “Great Mahele” of 1848.

Division of State Parks

Manages and administers 52 state parks encompassing nearly 25,000 acres on the five major islands. These parks offer varied outdoor recreation and heritage opportunities. The park environments range from landscaped grounds with developed facilities to wildland areas with trails and primitive facilities. Issues camping permits.