Since 1964, the Board of Land and Natural Resources has adopted and administered land use regulations for the Conservation District pursuant to the State Land Use Law (Act 187) of 1961. Act 187 defined Conservation as meaning the protection of watersheds and water supplies; preserving scenic areas; providing park lands, wilderness and beach reserves; conserving endemic plants, fish, and wildlife; preventing floods and soil erosion; forestry; and other related activities.
The Conservation District has five subzones: Protective, Limited, Resource, General and Special. The first four subzones are arranged in a hierarchy of environmental sensitivity, ranging from the most environmentally sensitive (Protective) to least sensitive (General). The Special subzones defines a unique land use on a specific site.
The use of Conservation District lands is regulated by Title 13 Chapter 5 of the Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules and Chapter 183C of the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes. These rules and regulations identify land uses that may be allowed by discretionary permit as well as impose fines for violations.