BY TOM LODGE – It is interesting that the Department of Health Office of Environmental Quality Control signed off on the Kau Forest Alala Reserve with a “no significant impact” assessment. Was there any other possibility? I’m not certain, but these plans are usually agreed to in advance then taken to the street to be sold to the public. It is on the finding of this assessment that I comment.
The DLNR took many comments, some unmentioned in their findings, along with a statement apparently saying “they defended their management policies” and further that they felt “paying hunters is not an effective way to deal with the problems posed by invasive species.” Really? Well for one thing, none of these species are “invasive”. The pig was brought to Hawaii as a resource. So too probably was the rat, cat, dog and taro, but the pig for sure. Actually the pig is so much more than just a resource to the Ancient Hawaiian, and I hardly think that “invasive “is the appropriate vernacular to describe the pig.
Of course, speaking of resources, Cook and Vancouver brought gifts of cattle, sheep, goats and eventually others, axis deer to Hawaii, all gifts of resources to the monarchy and the people of Hawaii. It’s pretty audacious to think of them as “invasive”. Food sources are “necessary resources” whether introduced or not. Resources have to be managed in Harmony with other resources. The Hawaiians were good at this; water in a stream was diverted through a maze of “auwai’s” to bring blessings of Lono to the taro, banana, breadfruit, and yams. Pigs, sheep and goats, here, and deer elsewhere in Hawaii need the respect that resources demand, and where necessary, to maintain harmony, management, not eradication.
The DLNR loves to use analogy to push their agenda, such as ““The Division (of Forestry and Wildlife) has found that in the most remote areas with native vegetation, hunters alone are simply not able to control ungulates to levels that prevent degradation to the forest.” This might be the case where you have steep and impenetrable forest, and it is also used as pretext to snare where hunters have taken animal numbers down to levels of minimal impact and the hours chasing pigs were rarely rewarded. In many of these areas, especially considering the condition of the areas today, leaving the area aggressively hunted would probably have left the overall forest in more pristine condition than what is found today around the state.
The most absurd statement of the article is that “DOFAW officials insisted the plan will not keep people from hunting in the reserve” and yet a few sentences later proclaims “The proposed portion of the reserve identified for fencing and ungulate removal will not be available for game mammal hunting once ungulates have been removed.”
The article also suggests that the 12,000 acres taken out of public hunting will be “mitigated “by “increasing access to large portions of the reserve still available for hunting and by involving hunters in ungulate removal activities.” I’d like to focus on the word, still. The DLNR is embarking on removing animal resources from the entire state of Hawaii. This is outlined thoroughly in the “Hahai no ka ua i ka ululā`au” (Rain follows the forest) documents.
In 1970 or thereabouts, Hawaii embarked on a program to set aside pristine areas of intact forest or other special areas for perpetuity. These Natural Area Reserves now number 20reserves on five islands, encompassing 123,431 acres of the State’s most unique ecosystems. If any areas in Hawaii could be argued to be free of ungulates, there might be an argument here, but because the Polynesians brought with them various animals that lived in the forest, what we have today perhaps evolved with these animal resources within them. What are at issue herewith the people of Hawaii and the rest of the other outer Islands is that the State is furtively moving to encompass all forest are essentially into a NARS like system of restrictions and eradication of our natural resources.
Lastly, the DLNR suggests that it is aware that there is a lack of support among many of Kau’s residents for both the fencing and the eradications, yet they signed off on this plan as “no significant impact”. The reality is that there is a significant impact but that the wishes of the people are irrelevant. This has been the case in every single case I’m aware of where there has been a “taking” of land and resources from the people of Hawaii.
I’d like to close on the comments of some who suggest that fencing would keep pigs closer to the lower elevations and closer to hunting opportunities. Fences can be prisons, or fences can be barriers. Fences and other barriers in all cases, restrict animal travel, confining them to smaller habitat areas, increasing their impact and forces them eventually into areas where they typically don’t inhabit and create many times negative impacts with the public.
In all cases, fences in Hawaii’s forests are inhospitable and don’t elicit the feelings of Aloha nor allow for those of us who grew up here in Hawaii to be able to, as Everett Franco of Pa’auilo opines, “Holo holo”. For you haoles out there, that means enjoy at your leisure, the bounty bestowed upon us and rightfully belonging to the people of Hawaii, not an arrogant, unresponsive DLNR and elitist environmental community looking to sway land use policy and access.
The best solution to the Kau forest, is a Cooperative Game Management Plan implemented by the people of Hawaii in cooperation with the environmental community, the DLNR, and the hunters, knowing that the people of Hawaii, have the ultimate stake in our resources and that working together is the path to perpetuity.
Tom Lodge is a resident of Keaau, Hawaii