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Testimony needed: don’t appoint developer to control our public lands

We posted a petition in January to oppose appointment of Carleton Ching, a lobbyist for developers, as head of the Department of Land and Resources (DLNR). Your testimony is needed to the State Senate Committee on Water and Land, during or before their hearing March 11, 2015 at 10AM in Room 229 at the State Capitol. Email the committee at WTLtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov or submit testimony online.

The following information is from KAHEA, which with at least 22 other Hawai`i groups opposes the nomination of Carleton Ching as Director of DLNR:

DLNR’s critical mission is to “[e]nhance, 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 Hawai’i nei, and its visitors, in partnership with others from the public and private sectors.” Chronic under-funding of this important department has led to long-term staff shortages. These shortages, along with systemic failures to follow basic legal requirements in past decisions, contributed to multiple, major lawsuits against the department costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

The Director of DLNR chairs the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) and the Commission on Water Resources Management (CWRM), and is the chief historic preservation officer. The Director is responsible for ensuring DLNR follows all public hearing and disclosure requirements and satisfies all constitutional requirements under the public trust doctrine.

“The University of Hawai`i’s proposal to re-lease Mauna Kea summit lands under business as usual terms will soon come before BLNR. Later this year, CWRM will vote on designation of Keauhou aquifer as a groundwater management area, an action which KAHEA supported as prudent safeguards against the volume of water-thirsty development planned for North Kona. In these decisions, and others, we need an informed, experienced decision-maker at the helm.

In recent meetings, Ching failed to identify any vision or plan for DLNR, indicated he did not know what the public trust is, and recited the refrain of “balancing” in reference to competing water users. Hawaii’s water code, he then learned, imposes a hierarchies of best uses of water. Ching served on the Building Industry of America’s board, which sought to undermine the state Historic Preservation Division’s authority over historic properties, a stance that could endangering many Native Hawaiian cultural sites. Ching was president of Land Use Research Foundation (LURF), which lobbied to establish the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC), to weaken environmental impact assessments, and against establishing an Environmental Court.

Again, email the committee at WTLtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov or submit testimony online. It is crucial that they listen to our concerns:

  1. Carleton Ching lacks the knowledge, experience, and community ties necessary to the successful operation of DLNR.
  2. DLNR needs a leader with a deep understanding of the histories and struggles from which Hawaii’s obligation hold natural resources in trust arose, the political courage to enforce this public trust, and the vision to develop a plan to realize these crucial protections.
  3. Carleton Ching is not this leader.

After hearing all the testimony presented, the Committee will vote whether to recommend Mr. Ching be confirmed as Director of DLNR. Then a vote of the entire Senate will be scheduled to consider the Committee’s recommendation and make a final determination. You are encouraged to directly contact your Senator to express your concern about appointing Mr. Ching to DLNR.

Monday August 11 – Honolulu Town Hall meeting on PRIMNM

People who want to protect our moana nui for everyone, including Hawai‘i, need to be heard in regard to Obama’s proposed PRIMNM expansion. The Town Hall discussion will be held on August 11 at the Ala Moana Hotel, Carnation Room, 410 Atkinson Drive Honolulu, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Even if you can’t attend the Town Hall meeting, you can send comments to PRI@noaa.gov, deadline is August 15.

This notice reposted from an email sent out by KAHEA: The Hawaii-Environmental Alliance.

Our oceans are threatened by overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, and climate change. According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014, about 90 percent of global fish stocks are overfished or fully-fished. Researchers found that fully protected marine reserves are essential to rebuilding species abundance and diversity and increasing resilience to climate change. At least 20-30 percent of our ocean should be in protected marine reserves to ensure the productivity of marine fisheries and overall ocean health. Currently less than 1 percent of the ocean is protected in no-take marine reserves.

On August 11, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host a Town Hall meeting in Honolulu to hear your comments on U.S. President Obama’s recent proposal to expand – by nearly nine-fold -the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) to the outermost reaches of the already existing U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). PRIMNM currently consists of 5 uninhabited island or atoll complexes (Wake, Jarvis, Howland and Baker Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll) plus the ocean surrounding each.

The expanded PRIMNM would be the largest monument in the world, and commercial fishing would be banned in its 200 square mile area. Unsurprisingly, the most vehement criticisms of PRIMNM expansion have come from members of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac). Wespac says the Pacific Remote Islands are important U.S. tuna fisheries and American Samoan purse seine fisheries; these fisheries don’t harm coral reef habitats in the area; and local subsistence fishers depend on access to these areas. The Pacific Remote islands are uninhabited, save for conservation personnel, and the area accounts for only about 5% of their tuna catch.

PRIMNM expansion complements actions of Pacific Island nations that are most affected by the health of our oceans. We do not often support U.S. federal actions in the Pacific, but PRIMNM expansion aligns with policies of putting marine conservation above commercial fishing interests on which many Pacific nations – Palau, Kiribati, and Cook Islands – have already led the way. Earlier this year, Palau announced it would protect 80 percent of Palau’s EEZ; Kiribati is closing two significant areas to commercial fishing; and Cook Islands have created a no-take marine reserve 50 miles around the southern islands in the archipelago.

The expanded PRIMNM would protect irreplaceable natural resources, including:

  • 241 seamounts, undersea mountains that are hotspots of biodiversity;
  • migratory species, such as dolphins, that use these seamounts as stopovers on trips between the Hawaiian Islands and other Pacific areas;
  • 14 million seabirds representing 19 species, which use these areas as feeding and breeding grounds;
  • Reef and open ocean habitat for protected species of sea turtles and marine mammals;
  • Deep water coral ecosystems, a variety of unique coral species live at great ocean depths, some of which are up to 5,000 years old;

Further, deep seabed mining – the extraction of minerals from the seafloor or sediment below the seabed – is prohibited within the existing PRIMNM and the boundary expansion should protect more of the Pacific. Mining destroys life on the seafloor in the target area; it pollutes adjacent waters and seafloor; heavy metals and sediment discharged from seabed mining can accumulate in fish; and sediment plumes that suffocate life can travel thousands of miles from a mining operation. In Papua New Guinea, where the first mining lease was granted in an area known as Solwara 1, an estimated US $740 million per hectare is needed to repair damage to the biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, and ecosystem function caused by seabed mining.

Native Hawaiians Lead Opposition to New Mauna Kea Telescope

A proposed Thirty Meter Telescope for the Mauna Kea summit faces opposition from Native Hawaiians and from environmental groups, due to the heavy impacts it would have on cultural practices and on this ecological sensitive area. Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i supports the right of Native Hawaiians to carry out their traditional spiritual practices free of encroachment by further industrial development. We should spend more time listening to the wisdom of people who’ve lived on this land for at least a thousand years, instead of sacrificing the land and its people in the pursuit of abstract knowledge.

The article Native Hawaiians Voice Opposition to Proposed Telescope on Sacred Mauna Kea describes the hearing by the Board of Land and Natural Resources, and testimony given by Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, explains:

The importance of Mauna Kea as a sacred place for indigenous Hawaiians remains one of the driving factors behind resistance, according to Kumu hula Paul K. Neves. Neves states: “We continue to educate Hawaii’s people and the public abroad, that Mauna Kea is not just a high-elevation place on earth, it is a most sacred of places. Our case is about the necessity of having respect for Hawaiian spirituality.”

However, resistance to the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea is also in response to the history of development on the mountain, and thus part of a much larger story. As anti-telescope organizer Ilima Long says: “The lack of say and control we have over our sacred places is one of the ongoing traumas of colonialism and occupation for Kanaka Maoli [Native Hawaiians] in Hawai‘i.”

Opposition is being organized by KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. Visit their website to sign up for alerts about how you can help in this and in other struggles.