BY KYLE SHIROMA – In a recent article from Hawaii Reporter, the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources is considering taking away the public’s right to comment on or know about actions being taken by the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) by taking away environmental assessments.
If this proposal is put into action, this would be a major step backwards in terms of improving government accountability for the citizens of Hawaii. With a free reign, the DLNR could technically eradicate all plants that they deem “invasive” to Hawaii, without the public ever knowing about it, or an environmental assessment being completed.
The government seems to have decided that citizens have too much of a say on what they do, so they’re going to go about business while keeping the citizens in the dark, which is the complete opposite of what this country was intended for.
In his famous Gettysburg address, Abraham Lincoln called America “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but it seems like the people in the DLNR don’t agree with that statement.
It is also very amusing that this proposal comes soon after talk of using an imported insect to control the growth of the strawberry guava plant surfaced in the news. The problem with the proposal to import the Brazilian Scale insect is that there is no way of containing the insect to strawberry guava trees on state grounds.
The insects will ultimately spread to strawberry guava plants on private property and damage those as well, which, according to state law, requires the state to reimburse private property owners for damages incurred by state projects.
And since the strawberry guava plant is widespread and valued by many homeowners, this method of releasing the insect in an attempt to control the spread of these plants will prove very costly for the state. There have been many people who have written public testimony against such an action; I myself am one of them.
So then might it be a coincidence that the DLNR is now considering to silence all public feedback and knowledge of their actions? I think not. It seems to me that the DLNR have their own agenda to fulfill and they will do what they can to see that they complete it. What’s more is that if the environmental assessment is suspended, DLNR workers can then use any means they see fit to eradicate the species they deem “invasive” to Hawaii, regardless of the impact it might have on the environment, or private property.
If, for example, the DNLR decided to eradicate an invasive species using an unpredictable method such as importing an insect to destroy the trees, without an environmental assessment or public commentary, the DNLR would be free from accountability, should the insects spread and destroy those species that have been purposefully planted in private property.
The proposition to remove the environmental assessment and silence public commentary on projects is a major step in the wrong direction for the DLNR. Not only does it remove any accountability that the department previously held, but it also gives that department a free reign to deal with projects as it sees fit, regardless of the opinions of Hawaii residents.
KYLE SHIROMA IS AN INTERN WITH THE GRASSROOT INSTITUTE OF HAWAII