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Syd Singer on The End of the Senseless Slaughter of Sheep and Start Saving the Palila Bird

Commentary by Syd Singer:

Syd Singer

I am writing you about a serious problem which you can help solve!  It means saving birds and wild sheep from extinction.

The photo below shows dead sheep rotting on the slopes of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.  Helicopters armed with government paid eradicators shooting at wild sheep with assault weapons, all for the alleged purpose of trying to save the finch-like endangered palila bird from extinction.

Picture sent in by Syd Singer

Unfortunately, killing the sheep is not helping the birds, despite 30 years of sheep carnage that has reduced their population from 40,000 to less than 300 today.  They will soon all be wiped out if we don’t stop this useless slaughter.

The sheep are being killed to prevent damage to the mamane tree, the seeds of which are food for the endangered bird.  But killing the sheep and growing more mamane has not helped the palila bird recover. In fact, weeds that had been controlled by the sheep are now tall and dry as the sheep are killed, creating a fire hazard that can destroy the palila habitat altogether.

We need to find some way to help the palila bird without needlessly exterminating every last wild sheep in Hawaii.  It’s time to call a halt to the sheep eradication experiment and do some new research into what can really help the palila, as well as the nearly extinct Hawaiian wild sheep.

Please go to this petition and sign it.  Then send it around to all the compassionate friends and contacts you have.

http://www.change.org/petitions/call-for-moratorium-on-hawaiis-wild-sheep-eradication

Together, we can end the senseless slaughter of sheep and start saving the palila bird.

Thank you, from those who really need your help.

Sydney Ross Singer

Director, Good Shepherd Foundation

Dodder Fodder – Commentary by Syd Singer

Commentary by Syd Singer:

How far are we willing to go to protect “native” species? Would you be willing to put your body on the line? If there was a native Hawaiian tapeworm, would you be willing to serve as its host? If it was an endangered Hawaiian tapeworm, you may be able to get a government grant to become critical habitat for the parasite. Nobody would be able to touch you without a permit or an environmental assessment.

WANTED: HUMAN HOSTS FOR NATIVE HAWAIIAN TAPEWORMS: Is There Any Limit To The Invasive Species Agenda? (Syd Singer)

Actually, there is a native Hawaiian parasite of plants, called dodder (Cuscuta sandwichiana), that hangs from trees and shrubs and smothers them to death and sucks out their juices. The dodder drapes over its host with its green and orange-tan filaments like a net, until all you see is the dodder. Large areas of trees, including o’hia, are destroyed by dodder.

This can create a dilemma for native species advocates. If the dodder is growing on a native tree, such as the o’hia, do you let it kill the tree, or do you kill the dodder?

I suppose the answer to that depends on whether you value the o’hia more than the dodder. But given the political correctness to protect native ecosystems, environmental managers may have trouble deciding on which native species to save, the resource or the parasite. After all, parasites are a normal and necessary part of the environment. All ecosystems need predators, parasites, competition, and all the rest for the cycle of life and death to go round.

But what if the tree the dodder is smothering is nonnative? Let’s say the native dodder is growing on a nonnative ornamental bush, such as rose bush, or a nonnative fruit or ornamental tree, such as a mango or lychee. Should we kill the native dodder or let it kill its nonnative host?

According to the nativists, the answer is clear. The native parasite must prevail.

Now this may seem odd to anyone who does not share the nativists’ bias. We all have some sympathy for endangered species. And some of us extend that sympathy to nonendangered native species. But there is more to consider than nativity…

Continue reading

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Sets Stage for Environmental War

The following was sent to me by Sydney Singer (Public Hearings Begin January 24.  Go to hawaii.gov/dlnr/occl/hearings-workshops for dates and locations.)  I think most of my readers know how I feel about this guy in general. :roll:

WHOSE “INVASIVE” NOW?

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Sets Stage for Environmental War

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Office of Coastal and Conservation Lands (DLNR OCCL) is responsible for overseeing approximately two million (2,000,000) acres of private and public lands, including beach and marine lands. In an attempt to better protect these lands, certain changes are being proposed to the Hawaii Administrative Rules 13-5 which govern the management of conservation lands. (To see the full text of the proposed amendments to the administrative rules, go to http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/occl/.)

Unfortunately, these proposed changes as currently drafted will initiate an environmental war that will include poisoning and infesting our forests, coastal and marine lands and implementing a witch hunt against any nonnative species someone decides to call “invasive”.

This goes against the Hawaii Constitution, Article XI, Section 1, which states, “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.” (Emphasis added.)

Note that the Constitution refers to natural resources, not just native resources. The framers of the Constitution realized the value of introduced species for food, fuel, environmental services, and natural beauty. As an island that began as a lava field in the middle of the Pacific ocean, the paucity of native resources has been supplemented with numerous valuable introduced species to provide Hawaii with more natural resources…

The DLNR’s emphasis, however, is to condemn any nonnative species that can gain a foothold in the environment and change its “native” character. Such species are termed “invasive”, as though these species were “invading” native realms. However, preserving and protecting certain species is not a license to target others as harmful.

This is not about pests of agriculture or human health, like mosquitoes or tree borers or fruit flies. Laws already exist for the control of noxious weeds and pests. This is about attacking beneficial species of trees and plants and animals that are natural resources, but that are also altering the native motif of our conservation lands. It’s about native species supremacism and immigrant species suppression.

The list of “invasive” targets is extensive and growing all the time. It includes the guava, strawberry guava, thimble berry, African tulip, banyan tree, monkey pod, ironwood, cats, pigs, sheep, goats, all nonnative birds, all lizards, all frogs and toads, nonnative fish, and virtually any nonnative species that takes up space or water or air that might otherwise be taken up by a native species.

Jacksons’ chameleons are considered invasive. So are endangered veiled chameleons. And endangered Mouflon sheep. Parrots. Songbirds. Cattle egrets. Peacocks. All are considered “invasive” in Hawaii and are routinely killed.

It used to be about protecting endangered species. Then it became protecting all native species, even if they are not endangered. In reality, it’s an anti-immigration policy, a bioxenophobia used to justify poisoning, clearing, and infesting nonnative resources.

In effect the DLNR is taking the naïve position that once a species is labeled “invasive” it no longer has any positive qualities, and its control or eradication can only help native species and native ecosystems regardless of the means to achieve that end, and regardless of the fact that returning to a native ecosystem is an unattainable goal in today’s changing world and climate. However, life is not black and white. Native is not necessarily good, and nonnative is not necessarily bad.

Once a species becomes part of the environment, attacking that species is an attack on the environment itself. And defining a species as “invasive” is often controversial and political.

To allow an unfettered environmental war against “invasives”, however, the DLNR must first change the rules. Currently, the administrative rules place limits on weeding and landscaping activities on conservation lands to prevent environmental damage. The use of poisons, power tools, and biocontrol is prohibited. However, the proposed rule changes would lift all these safeguards for any attack on “invasive” species.

The proposed rule changes would allow poisons and biocontrol insects, fungi, and pathogens to be used to kill any “invasive” species of plant or animal on any number of acres of coastal or conservation land without requiring a permit or environmental assessment or any public hearing or public input.

No public input is allowed in making this determination of what is considered “invasive”, either. In fact, the proposed rule changes would severely restrict public oversight of DLNR decisions in violation of our Constitutional rights.

Proposed Rule Amendments

According to these rules, conservation lands are divided into different subzones depending on their qualities and the activities allowed. The most pristine and protected subzone is aptly called the Protective subzone. Next is the Limited subzone, with less restrictions of what you can do on these lands. Next is the Resource subzone, followed by the General subzone.

The first problem with these proposed rule amendments concerning invasive species control pertains to the definition of an invasive species.

I. Definition of Invasive Species

According to the draft proposal definitions,

“Invasive species” means any plant, plant pest, noxious weed, microorganism, biological control organism, or animal than can directly or indirectly injure or cause damage to the environment or to the interests of agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, animal or public health, native species, natural resources, irrigation, or navigation, or otherwise defined in §520A-2, HRS.”

The problems with this definition:

The “interests” of agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture is not clearly defined, and can change with time and economic conditions. Also, some so-called invasive species can be also agricultural, horticultural or aquacultural.

Many so-called invasive species may also be natural resources. According to the draft proposal definitions, ““Natural Resource” means resources such as plants, aquatic life and wildlife, cultural, historic, recreational, geologic, and archaeological sites, scenic areas, ecological significant areas, watersheds, and minerals.” A species can therefore be both a resource in one context, and invasive in another context.

This means that natural resources can be devalued and destroyed if they are considered invasive, in violation of the state’s duty to protect our natural resources.

The definition of invasive species does not explained by what procedure a species would be determined to be invasive. Discretionary decisions on what species are “invasive” could be arbitrary and capricious (or political). Such decisions require public hearings and an environmental assessment. This makes sense since labeling a species “invasive” changes the applicable rules of what you can do without a permit on conservation lands.

A species can be “invasive” in one environmental context and invaluable in another. There are also important interactions that can develop between native and introduced species, even if these introduced species can be labeled as “invasive” in certain contexts. labeling every member of a species as invasive is over simplistic and ignores the actual and potential benefits offered by a species in a wide range of contexts.

The definition of invasive species ignores the fact that environmental conditions change, altering the relationships between species and the proper goals of conservation. In addition to development and pollution and associated land usage changes over time, climate change in Hawaii is resulting in a shift in environmental conditions away from those that supported past native ecosystems and native species. This means healthy and robust exotic species that do well in Hawaii may become the dominant and valuable species of the future.

II. Removing Invasive Species

In an attempt to better manage the threat of so-called “invasive species”, proposed rule changes would allow any invasive species control activities on any number of acres of land, using power tools, poisons, and even using biocontrol insects, fungi, and pathogens, without any permit or site plan requirement. The underlying assumption is that the ends of controlling or eradicating invasive species justifies any means of killing them.

In contrast, if the species being controlled is not labeled an invasive species, then there are strict limits and requirements for permits and site plans. In other words, if someone wanted to poison 1000 acres of trees and leave them to rot, it would be prohibited unless the trees were considered invasive, at which time it could be allowed without any permit or even a site plan.

A. The most egregious application of this draconian environmental policy is in Hawaii Administrative Rule 13-5-22, “Identified land uses in the protective subzone.” This is identified as use

(P-4) and would not require any permit or site plan.

P-4 “Removal of invasive species including clearing with power hand tools and herbicides and biocontrols. Includes invasive species control using herbicides and biological agents in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations for the purpose of protecting, preserving or enhancing native species, native habitat, or native ecosystem function that results in no, or only minor ground disturbance. The department or board reserves the right to require site plan, departmental or board approval if it is determined that the proposed action may cause secondary impacts on natural and cultural resources, or the surrounding community. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. For existing developed lots, compliance with section 13-5-23(L-2) satisfies the requirements of this section.”

The problems with this proposed use are:

“Removal of invasive species including clearing with power hand tools and herbicides and biocontrols.” Biocontrols, which constitute the release of insects, fungi, or other pathogens to attack the target species, do not remove the target species from the area. Gall forming insects used as biocontrol, for example as being proposed for the management of strawberry guava, infest the leaves of the tree but do not remove the tree. Poisons can kill a plant but do not remove it from the area.

“Clearing” protective subzone conservation lands of a so-called invasive species may result in soil erosion, aesthetic damage, impacts to native and endangered species, and other primary and secondary impacts.

Biocontrol agents are not limited to the areas in which they are released, and may therefore attack the target species on private property or other unintended areas where the target is desired, resulting in property damage. Biocontrol agents also evolve over time in unpredictable ways, posing a potential threat to other species. Clearly, the introduction of an alien insect or fungus or pathogen into our Protective subzone conservation lands is something that should require an environmental assessment and permit, if it is allowed at all.

“The department or board reserves the right to require site plan, departmental or board approval if it is determined that the proposed action may cause secondary impacts on natural and cultural resources, or the surrounding community.” It is not clear how the department or board will make this determination without a permit application, environmental assessment, and public comment. This clause also subverts the intention of these rules, which are to define categories of actions allowed in these subzones to allow ministerial, and not discretionary, decision making. This clause leaves it to the discretion of the department or board, and therefore should trigger an environmental assessment under HRS 343, which requires the preparation of an EA for discretionary decisions pertaining to actions on conservation lands. It may also constitute rulemaking under HRS 91 by ruling particular species as invasive.

“For existing developed lots, compliance with section 13-5-23(L-2) satisfies the requirements of this section.” HAR 13-5-23 (L-2) pertains to landscaping in the Limited subzone. Ironically, it is more stringent than P-4 in the Protective subzone, which in the old rules was also labeled as landscaping.

There are three types of landscaping actions addressed in L-2, depending on the area being landscaped. The first, least damaging landscaping is, “Landscaping, defined as alteration (including clearing and tree removal) of plant cover including clearing with power hand tools and use of herbicides in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations that result in no or only minor ground disturbance, in an area less than 2,000 square feet. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and shall give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited.” This type of landscaping requires site plan approval.

The next type of landscaping is, “Landscaping, (including clearing, grubbing, and tree removal, including the use of herbicides in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations) of plant cover in an area of less than 10,000 square feet. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and shall give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited.” This land use requires a departmental permit.

And then there is, “Landscaping, (including clearing, grubbing, and tree removal, including the use of herbicides in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations) of plant cover in an area of more than 10,000 square feet. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and shall give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited.” This land use requires a board permit.

The difference between landscaping in P-4 and L-2 is that the P-4 refers only to invasive species, and L-2 refers to species not labeled as invasive. Clearly, however, environmental impacts may result from clearing and removing trees (regardless of their nativity or invasiveness). The protections afforded by L-2 should apply to the more protected Protective subzone, regardless of whether the protected land is already a developed lot. Indeed, the more protective L-2 makes even more sense for undeveloped lots, since more care should be required for actions on undeveloped lands.

Recommendation: Replace P-4 with the text of L-2, including all three landscaping types mentioned. However, L-2 should be changed as discussed in B.

B. Again, the Landscaping uses described in L-2 are:

“Landscaping, defined as alteration (including clearing and tree removal) of plant cover including clearing with power hand tools and use of herbicides in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations that result in no or only minor ground disturbance, in an area less than 2,000 square feet. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and shall give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited.” This use requires site plan approval.

“Landscaping, (including clearing, grubbing, and tree removal, including the use of herbicides in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations) of plant cover in an area of less than 10,000 square feet. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and shall give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited.” This land use requires a departmental permit.

“Landscaping, (including clearing, grubbing, and tree removal, including the use of herbicides in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations) of plant cover in an area of more than 10,000 square feet. Any replanting shall be appropriate to the site location and shall give preference to plant materials that are endemic or indigenous to Hawaii. The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited.” This land use requires a board permit.

The problems with these uses are:

The sentence, “The introduction of invasive plant species is prohibited” is in each landscape use. Again, as discussed in Section I, the definition of invasive species is arbitrary and capricious, fraught with contradictions, prevents the use of possibly nonnative species that may be more appropriate than native species for a given site location, and excludes public input.

Recommendation: This sentence should be changed to say, “The introduction of noxious species is prohibited. Noxious species is defined by the chapter 152, HRS, and chapter 4-68.”

This amended L-2 should be used in place of P-4.

According to the proposed amendments, 13-5-23 Identified land uses in the limited subzone, it states, (a) “In addition to the land uses identified herein, all identified land uses and their associated permit or site plan approval requirements listed for the protective subzone also apply to the limited subzone, unless otherwise noted.” Unless P-4 is changes to read the same as L-2, this provision would expose Limited subzone lands to the same potential destruction caused by invasive species removal.

Note that the greater environmental care is required to remove noninvasive plants than invasive ones. However, the impacts to the environment can be just as damaging in either case. Ironically, landscaping that removes plants from an area of less than half an acre requires board permit and an environmental assessment according to L-2, while “removing” invasive species from any number of acres requires nothing according to P-4, unless, of course, the DLNR OCCL somehow decides permits may be needed.

C. 13-5-24 Identified land uses in the resource subzone.

All the above comments apply to this subzone, as well, since 13-5-24 (a) states, “In addition to the land uses identified herein, all identified land uses and their associated permit or site plan approval requirements listed for the protective and limited subzones also apply to the resource subzone, unless otherwise noted.”

D. 13-5-25 Identified land uses in the general subzone.

All the above comments apply to this subzone, as well, since 13-5-25 (a) states, “In addition to the land uses identified in this section, all identified land uses and their associated permit or site plan approval requirements listed for the protective, limited, and resource subzones also apply to the general subzone, unless otherwise noted.”

III. Land and Resource management

Returning to the Protective subzone, a newly proposed use is P-13, which requires no permit or site plan. P-13 is, “Basic land and resource management, including routine weed and invasive species control, clearing of understory, planting of native and/or endemic plants, tree pruning, predator and ungulate control (including fence enclosures for single plant or small native wildlife communities, less than one acre), invasive aquatic species control, fence maintenance, etc. The department or board reserves the right to require site plan, departmental or board approval if it is determined that the proposed action may cause secondary impacts on natural or cultural resources.”

The problems with this proposed use are:

The term “basic land and resource management” is poorly defined, and the examples given could entail significant primary and secondary impacts. While the fence enclosures indicated less than one acre, there are no area limits placed on clearing of understory or routine weed and invasive species control or aquatic species control.

This paragraph makes no mention of the methods allowed for clearing understory, predator and ungulate control, invasive species control, or aquatic invasive species control.

Predator and ungulate control may have significant impacts on hunters and wildlife resources, and may require an environmental assessment under HRS 343.

Realizing the potential for abuse, the proposed amendment includes departmental or board discretionary decision making. “The department or board reserves the right to require site plan, departmental or board approval if it is determined that the proposed action may cause secondary impacts on natural or cultural resources.” This may be in violation of HRS 91 and HRS 343. See comment to II A(4) discussed above.

Recommendation: P-13 is redundant with other landscaping actions defined by L-2. The only added action allowed by P-13 and not included in L-2 pertains to fencing. This action can therefore be changed to: “Fence enclosures for single plant or small native wildlife communities, less than one acre.” All the rest should be deleted.

IV. Standing for Contested Case Hearing

Pertaining to Departmental Permits, 13-5-33 (g) states, “The permit applicant or any person who has some property interest in the land, who lawfully resides on the land, or who otherwise can demonstrate that they will be so directly and immediately affected by the use that their interest is so clearly distinguishable from that of the general public may appeal the chairperson’s decision by filing a written appeal to the department not later than fourteen days after the date of the department’s determination of the departmental permit. The written appeal shall provide all relevant information and shall state with specificity the reason for the appeal.”

The problem with this is:

The original 13-5-33(g) allows “any person” standing, and this proposed amendment is designed to raise the bar to public challenges of departmental decisions. This goes contrary to the rights guaranteed in the Hawaii Constitution Article Xl Section 9 concerning Environmental Rights and ensuring a private cause of action to protect those rights, and HRS 344-10 and other statutes promoting public involvement in the environmental decision making.

Recommendation: Restore the “Any person” provision of this paragraph.

V. Conclusion

The proposed amendments to the Hawaii Administrative Rules governing how conservation lands are managed by the DLNR OCCL will cause the opposite of their intent.

We cannot achieve environmental protection by waging environmental war.

The public should be encouraged to participate in environmental management, not locked out of the process and denied Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The DLNR needs to be reminded that it is the Department of Land and NATURAL Resources, not the Department of Land and NATIVE Resources.

Commentary in Response to Syd Singer Mangrove Lawsuit

Commentary by Larry O’Brien from Knowing.net:

Ours is not “a time of rapid evolution,” as claimed by Syd Singer in his misguided commentary recently posted at https://damontucker.com/2010/08/12/syd-singer-on-climate-change-and-conservation/. It is the opposite — a time of extinction and the passing of great things.

It saddens and shocks me that anyone who lives on these islands can dismiss extinction so lightly. You will never see or hear an ‘o’u, a a koa finch, a mamo, a nukupu’u, an ‘akialoa, a Kona grosbeak. You may see an ‘alala — there are some left in captivity. You might have seen a po’ouli but the last one died in captivity in 2004.

Kona Grospeak

I don’t know if it’s misguided hope or willful blindness that can claim that, because preserving nature is a struggle, we ought not “weed for the past.” Wouldn’t you have liked to go for a walk and caught a glimpse of some of these “weeds”.

Singer likes to say that the displacement of native species by non-native species shows that native species are “weak and unhealthy.” That’s nonsense. Any High School biology student (or anyone with the eyes to see our Hawaiian reefs and native forests) knows that islands create species that are specialists — the longnose butterflyfish that can snip away at individual coral polyps, the parrotfish that grind away at more solid corals and excrete the sand that, over thousands of years, become the beaches where the turtles lay their eggs. Just because lauwiliwili don’t expect to be eaten by roi (introduced in 1956), they are “weak and unhealthy”? Because the native birds aren’t immune to avian malaria (brought in the early 1800s) they are unworthy to live anywhere that mosquitos live?

Just as the native species are not “weak and unhealthy,” the ability of a species to invade is not proof of some moral superiority. The coqui frog is controlled in Puerto Rico by populations of specific species of tarantulas, whip scorpions, crabs, and lizards; we don’t have any of those species here. (And if Singer is such a fan of “winner takes all” conservation, does he think we should introduce whip scorpions to see if the coquis are really so wonderful?) One reason we have so many roi is because they can be ciguateric, so no one fishes for them (except for speardivers, who have begun conducting “roi roundups” — which Singer undoubtedly opposes).

It’s true that environmentalists sometimes overemphasize the drabness of invasive species — the mats of invasive algae that clog the once-colorful bays of Oahu, sparrows and pigeons as opposed to honeycreepers. But it’s not a matter of what’s prettiest — who’s to say that a java or saffron finch is not more attractive than an apapane or amakihi? It’s a matter of preservation. Just because there are plenty of sparrows in the world, is it okay if the i’iwi goes away? Just because there are plenty of cockroaches in the world, is it okay if the wekiu bug goes away?

The Hawaiian Islands have been changed by human activity ever since the first voyagers landed here bringing taro, pigs, and chickens. That the slopes above Kohala were covered with sandalwood trees when Kamehameha the Great built Pu’ukohola heiau and allowed cattle to begin roaming. Conservationists don’t deny that and aren’t motivated by a vision of a world that never was. Conservationists look at the world we have and see the passing of great things. I once saw a 1,000-pound bluefin tuna — you never will. I’ve dived on reefs that are gone now. My nieces and nephews have never seen an i’iwi or a blue whale. My 14-year-old nephew who lives in Pennsylvania has never seen the Milky Way. The world becomes a lesser place when uniqueness is lost.

If Hawaii is overgrown with the same vegetation that grows in Florida and the same birds that live in Hong Kong, what unique stories will our grand-children hear from the land? If the coral is gone and the reefs are covered by the same algae that lives in the Mediterranean and, without the reefs, the honu and the mano and the billfish go away, what stories will our grand-children hear from the ocean? If the sky above Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa is painted over with the same glaring lights that blanket the mainland, what will our grand-children learn by looking to the sky? That what came before was “weak and unfit,” nothing but “weeds,” and that you preferred to “surf the wave of change”?

Or are you going to tell them that you once saw great things, and you fought to preserve them?

Syd Singer on the Continuation of the Mangrove Lawsuit

Commentary by Syd Singer:

A public meeting was scheduled by Mayor Kenoi to discuss the controversial mangrove eradication and poisoning project that has now left over 30 acres of mangroves dead and rotting along the Puna coastline. The meeting, scheduled for July 31 at the Pahoa Community Center, was the first chance given to the public to comment on and question the project.

But the meeting never happened. Malama o Puna, the organization spearheading the poisoning, backed out at the last minute, causing the County to cancel the meeting, according to Hunter Bishop, spokesperson for Mayor Kenoi.

The public is left with an ugly, poisoned shoreline and still without any voice on the issue.

The 30 acres of mangroves now stand dead and defoliated along the sensitive Big Island coastline, left to rot over the years and blighting what had been beautiful, treasured areas. Wai Opae (which is the popular snorkeling area in Kapoho), Pohoiki (also called Isaac Hale Beach Park), Paki Bay, and Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo have all been poisoned.

There was no public hearing or public comment period allowed for this mangrove eradication project, which was done with the cooperation of the DLNR, County of Hawaii, and Big Island Invasive Species Committee. There was no environmental assessment or environmental impact statement prepared. For most residents who frequent these areas, awareness of the project began when they noticed the mangroves were dying and brown scum was floating on the water. Heaps of dead leaves from the defoliated trees still line the high tide mark.

A public protest against the mangrove poisoning was held in January, 2010, and the controversy was reported in the media. But Malama o Puna refused to stop the poisoning.

A citizen lawsuit was filed in February to get an injunction to stop the poisoning until an environmental assessment was done. Despite requests that they stop their work, Malama o Puna continued with their poisoning, killing 7 acres of mangroves at Pohoiki and 3-4 acres of mangroves at Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo while the lawsuit proceeded.

A ruling has just been made on the lawsuit, which continues in Third Circuit Court in Hilo. The Court has ruled that it is too late to sue Malama o Puna for not doing an environmental assessment. This does not mean Malama o Puna did not have to do an environmental assessment. It just means that it was too late to have the issue considered by the Court.

Attorneys for defendants Malama o Puna, DLNR, and County of Hawaii tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that private citizens cannot sue for violations of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, or Hawaii Pesticide law. But the Court reaffirmed that the public has a right to a clean and healthy environment, as provided in the Hawaii Constitution Article Xl, Section 9, and that all citizens have a right to sue to protect those environmental rights.

The lawsuit now will focus on whether Malama o Puna violated clean water regulations and threatened endangered species that are known to use the poisoned areas. No further hearings are scheduled at this time.

Ironically, mangroves may be the best species for Hawaii’s subsiding coastline, especially given the climate change predictions coming from the Hawaii government and environmental groups that the oceans are rising. Mangroves protect the shoreline from erosion, storm surge, and tsunamis. In fact, mangroves have been shown to save lives.

Unfortunately, while recognizing climate change is the environmental issue of our time, some environmental groups and government agencies have not yet realized the implications climate change has for “invasive” species control. Climate change is an inconvenient truth for those who want to save native species that thrived in the past but which may not survive in today’s and tomorrow’s altered environment. Introduced species which grow well here may belong to the Hawaii of the future. Today’s “invasive” species may become tomorrow’s “invaluable” species.

This especially applies to mangroves, considered by the Nature Conservancy in its Summer, 2010 magazine as one of the most valuable and beneficial species in the world. Mangroves may prove critical to shoreline protection in Hawaii as the oceans rise and the land sinks.

While their presence in Hawaii is controversial, as is the use of powerful poisons to kill the mangroves and leave them rotting along the shoreline, the public will not have an opportunity to comment on this eradication. And while the County meeting was too little, too late, it was at least an attempt to include the public. But now, even that attempt has been poisoned.

For more information, see www.mangrovelawsuit.com.

Sydney Ross Singer

P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawai 96778

Syd Singer on Climate Change and Conservation

How Climate Change Can Change Conservation:  From “Invasive” to “Invaluable”

Commentary by Syd Singer:

Change is in the air – and in the sea and on the land.  In fact, the entire planet is undergoing a transformation called climate change.

Temperatures will rise, along with humidity and the level of the oceans.  Storms will be more severe, along with droughts and floods.  Animals and plants and microorganisms will have to adapt to survive.  Some species will not make it.  Others will evolve and adapt to the new, changing ecosystem conditions.

However, despite all this change that is acknowledged and feared by governments throughout the world, there has been no change in the way we conserve our natural resources and protect endangered species.

The goal of modern conservation goes beyond protection of forests and wild spaces from development and pollution.  Today’s conservationists fight to protect and preserve native ecosystems and native species against “invasive” species.  The goal is to return “invaded” ecosystems to their condition prior to the introductions of highly competitive “alien” species that have altered the environmental landscape.

Essentially, conservationists and preservationists are resisting environmental change.

In the past, environmental managers introduced species into new environments to increase biodiversity and  resource values of forests and other natural areas.  They valued species for their ability to grow well in their new environments.   Now, however, they call these thriving introduced species “invasive”, and introduce insects, fungi, or other biocontrol pests to slow down their growth, or kill them with poisons, chainsaw, or bulldozers.

The hope is that by eliminating species that “don’t belong” in a certain ecosystem, we can return that ecosystem to a more natural, balanced state where native species and endangered species can thrive without competition from  introductions.

However, climate change is a deal breaker for all conservation strategies.

Climate change means that native species that once thrived in past ecosystems may be threatened with extinction in the near future.  Every species of plant, insect, mammal, bird, fungus, bacteria, and even virus will be impacted by these changes in the conditions of life.  Native ecosystems existed in a different world of the past, with different conditions than we have today and will have tomorrow.

Climate change means you can never go back to the way it was centuries ago.  Today’s and tomorrow’s forests, coastal ecosystems, and oceans may not support yesterday’s species.  And this change is now fast upon us.

Changing conditions will lead to a rebalancing of the entire food chain.  Some dominant species that preferred the old conditions will fall, and new species that thrive on the change will take their place.

In short, this is a time of rapid evolution.  It is a time to look forward, not backward.

As we assess species for their ability to survive and thrive in the new environmental conditions that are coming, we may discover that some species currently considered “invasive” for their ability to grow well are actually “invaluable” for being able to keep natural areas forested into the future, and our oceans vital and healthy.

The goal of environmental management should be to have healthy, vital ecosystems, regardless of the nativity of the species creating them.  We cannot afford to attack introduced species for growing well and outcompeting native species.  This ability to survive and thrive may make them invaluable in the future.

Those conservationists and preservationists who want to maintain native species and native ecosystems can fence, weed and manage areas that can serve as museums of the past biological world.   But such natural preserve areas will require constant commitment of resources in an endless battle against the tide of climate change.

More importantly, we need to plant for the future, not weed for the past.  We need to stop killing the fittest and saving the least fit, or the future forests will consist solely of weak and unhealthy trees.  We need to value trees for growing well, and not just for being native, ensuring that we will still have forests to clean the air, remove carbon dioxide, and provide resources for man and wildlife as the climate changes.

Conservationism itself must change, evolving from an environmental philosophy that fights change into one that embraces and manages it.

The past is done.  Climate change is now giving us a new world unfolding before our eyes.  Either we fight the inevitable changes kicking and screaming for a lost past, or we plan for a better future by surfing the wave of change.

I say let’s surf!

Bug Plan Squashed on Big Island

Editorial by Syd Singer, Director, Good Shepherd Foundation, Pahoa, Hawaii:

Hawaii’s first resolution to ban biocontrol was approved 6-3 by the Hawaii County Council on August 19th. The ban is on any use of biocontrol targeting relatives of the o’hia tree, the primary tree of our native forests, which includes the strawberry guava, paperbark trees, guava, eucalyptus, and other members of the myrtle family.

While the resolution is non-binding, it comes as a blow to the US Forest Service, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, which have been proposing the experimental infestation of the entire state of Hawaii with an alien scale insect, called Tectococcus ovatus, for the management of strawberry guava.

Biocontrol researchers deliberately infest the environment with biological “agents”, which are alien insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, used to attack targeted “weed” species. The goal is to make these weeds sick, slowing their growth and spread.

Unfortunately, introducing any alien species can cause unpredictable impacts on the environment. Introduced species, for example, are known to evolve and adapt to using new food sources, and can do so rapidly and unpredictably. This makes using biocontrol a risky gamble that Big Island residents are not willing to take.

Big Island Councilmember Kelly Greenwell introduced Resolution 80-09 banning biocontrol against relatives of the o’hia to protect the o’hia tree. Relatives of targeted species are the most likely to be attacked as the biocontrol “agent” seeks new food sources, making the o’hia vulnerable to attack by any biocontrol release against any tree in the myrtle family, of which the o’hia is a member.

The public has been strongly opposed to the proposed scale insect attack on the strawberry guava, with over 6,000 residents on the Big Island signing a petition opposing the release.

Private property owners who enjoy having strawberry guava for its wood, fruit, and beauty would have to spray pesticides to try controlling the scale on their property, or bulldoze and replace the infested trees with scale resistant species, according to the US Forest Service, the lead agency proposing this biocontrol experiment. Property damage compensation has not been addressed, and could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. See www.BioDamage.com for more details.

Other residents express health concerns over the proposed insect infestation. Trillions of insect eggs and crawling nymphs, which would be floating in the air and dispersed with the wind, along with the tiny flying males, could create a health hazard when contacted by the skin or inhaled, especially for asthmatics and people with allergies to chitin, a common allergen associated with insects. This problem could be especially bad in residential areas, such as lower Puna, where strawberry guava is prevalent and insect infestations could be astronomical, especially since there are no predators for this alien insect in Hawaii to control its numbers.

Hunters are concerned about the impact of reduced fruit for pigs and other wildlife. Farmers are concerned that the scale insect could start attacking commercial crops. And many environmentalists fear the introduction of any alien species could result in a new invasive species problem, especially with insects and fungi whose impact is difficult to follow, and impossible to reverse or stop.

The proposed attack on strawberry guava also came at a time when people are unemployed and are especially grateful for having free, wild food. An attempt last spring to ban the biocontrol of food plants was made by Big Island Senator Takamine and Representative Nakashima. Unfortunately, SB 108 and HCR 249 were never allowed to get a hearing by committee chairs.

According to critics, the basic problem with biocontrol is that it spreads onto private property, its impact is unpredictable, it is a living organism that can evolve and adapt rapidly, and after release there is no turning back. The environment is changed, forever.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to biocontrol, which were raised at several County Council meetings. The University of Hawaii has patented a clean process for converting green matter into biochar, a valuable soil amendment, as well as a clean process for creating carbon, also in high demand commercially. Instead of considering strawberry guava, guava, ironwood, albesia, and other non-native trees as “weeds”, we can now treat them as resources. Creating an industry to harvest, process, and sell wood products from our forests can help conservation efforts while creating jobs and opportunities. It also avoids the risks caused by releasing alien species.

Residents have expressed their disapproval of using biocontrol against the strawberry guava and other myrtles. It remains to be seen whether or not the state and federal agencies proposing these biocontrol experiments will respect and abide by the will of the County Council. The basic question is whether the future of our island will be determined by federal and state government biocontrol researchers, or by the people.

For more information, see the website www.SaveTheGuava.com.

Open Letter to Mayor Kenoi From Syd Singer on Alien Scale Insect

July 13, 2009

Dear Mayor Kenoi:

I am writing you on behalf of thousands of residents who have been opposing efforts of the US Forest Service to release an alien scale insect, Tectococcus ovatus, as a biocontrol for strawberry guava.

We have just discovered that the new environmental assessment, which was expected on May 23, is now indefinitely postponed.

This is a great relief to many residents who enjoy waiawi fruit, which is considered a “super-food” for its nutritional value.  As the current economic recession drags on, more and more people will come to appreciate and rely on our wild foods.  Using our natural resources, like strawberry guava, is what sustainability and food sovereignty is all about.

However, this scale insect is already on the Big Island, being reared in a quarantine facility operated by the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Many residents are concerned that the insects may escape, along with other species of plant pests and pathogens that are being researched at that facility. Accidental release of quarantined insects or other pathogens could result in environmental and agricultural devastation.  Fueling the concern was a 2005 article in the Maui News, where the quarantine facility was described as “decrepit” by Dr. Tracy Johnson, who operates the facility.

Upon investigation, we have discovered that
the Volcano facility was not engineered to withstand earthquakes, and does not meet current Federal seismic construction standards.

We also learned the Hawaii Department of Agriculture does not know what other insects or plant pathogens are being reared and researched at that facility, claiming that the US Forest Service is not required to get a State permit to import alien insects, fungi, or other pathogens for research in federal facilities.

The public needs, and has a right, to know what other species are being reared at that quarantine facility. However, the Forest Service is not wanting to give that information.

We have been told by Mr. Mento of the Hawaii County Civil Defense that his department has contacted Boone Kaufman of the Forest Service, who manages the Volcano facility, and Mr. Kaufman is preparing a written response.

Mayor Kenoi, please
help get the Volcano quarantine facility closed down for the safety of our island. A highly active volcanic island is a foolish place to put an insect quarantine facility — unless the entire island is to be regarded as nothing more than a field test site for insect research.

With your attention to this vital issue, we may be able to avert what is otherwise an inevitable earthquake catastrophe.

Sincerely,

Sydney Ross Singer
Medical Anthropologist
Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease
P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778
808-935-5563

Syd Singer Crashes Guava Control Meeting

Sid Singer Crashes the Meeting: Click For Video

Syd Singer Crashes the Meeting: Click For Video

Syd Singer is a very passionate guy when it comes to many things.

While I’m totally against them releasing a bug to control strawberry guava…

I’m even more against Mr. Singer running a coqui sanctuary!

I hate these dang Coquis much more then the Guava Trees.

Click here to see a video of Mr. Singer crash the Biocontrol meeting that happened the other day courtesy of Big Island Video News.