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Posts Tagged ‘Natural Area Reserve’

From Marti:

The Hawaii Legislature is seriously considering a raid on our most important conservation funds in order to balance the state budget.  This is insane given all that these few millions do to protect the quality of our drinking water, the health of our native ecosystems, and truly local jobs.  But, the insanity goes a step further once you realize they are considering these massive cuts when the state is owed millions upon millions for the use of public land on Mauna Kea.

For 40 years foreign-owned telescopes have used (and destroyed) acres of public land on the summit of Mauna Kea without paying any rent.  Rent, that is required by state law!  It’s estimated that the state could earn at least $50 million a year just by charging market-based rent for the use of our public lands, instead of giving it away to foreign corporations and countries… and cutting important programs and jobs to make ends meet.

On Sunday, the Honolulu Advertiser published the editorial below from some of the entities that directly benefit from these important programs.  If you would like to express your support for these programs to the Hawaii Legislature, click here.

Natural resources permit our survival

By Herbert “Monty” Richards, Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth and Rick Barboza
Honolulu Advertiser, April 12, 2009

We thank The Advertiser for its editorial (April 2) on the necessity of natural resource stewardship even during fiscal crises. Generations of ranchers, farmers and land managers have always understood the close connection between a healthy natural environment, land protection, stewardship, water supply, agricultural self-sufficiency and the economy.

Business and government often measure our economy by the number of tourism and construction jobs in operation. That’s understandable, but doesn’t account for vast natural assets (water, forests, beaches, coral reefs, agricultural land) that support every person in Hawai’i — residents and visitors — who depend on services from the environment for their livelihoods, health and welfare.

The programs that are funded by the DLNR’s Natural Area Reserve Fund and the Land Conservation Fund are essential to the protection of our Hawaiian resources. They support watershed management, invasive species control, agricultural production, forestry, coastal protection and cultural preservation. Hundreds are employed and more than 1 million acres are managed, protected and cultivated for public benefit. These healthy, managed natural resources and the services they provide allow us the lifestyle we all enjoy and permit our survival in the middle of the vast Pacific.

Due to difficult times, conveyance tax revenue that supports these funds is down 50 percent. These programs will be cut by half or more even without House Bill 1741. Further reduction in the NAR Fund and Land Conservation Fund as proposed in HB 1741 would either eliminate many of these essential programs or cripple them to the point of leaving them inoperable and nonfunctioning. These programs leverage funding by at least 1:1, and in some cases as much as 1:3, with federal, county and private dollars (i.e., for every state dollar spent, three additional matching non-state dollars can be leveraged).

The NAR Fund and the Land Conservation Fund are our state’s way of supporting large-scale conservation that protects our incredible natural resources, supports sustainable land and water management, ensures high-quality jobs, and guarantees the perpetuation of essential ecosystem services worth billions of dollars. Without watershed management, critical drinking water resources will dry up or become contaminated.

Without personnel in the field controlling invasive species, pests like bee mites will infiltrate our shores — wiping out industries like our local honey/beekeeping industry, or requiring tens of millions to control and eradicate (e.g., miconia, coqui frogs). Without land protection, more agricultural, watershed, forest, coastal and culturally important lands will be converted; reducing our ability to feed ourselves and attract visitors who appreciate Hawai’i’s natural beauty.

Without these programs, successes like MA’O Organic Farms might not be possible. MA’O recently purchased agricultural land using Land Conservation Funds, allowing it to expand its organic farm, and employ over two dozen high school graduates from Wai’anae and Nanakuli and pay their college tuition and stipends. As fifth-generation ranchers in North Kohala, Kahua Ranch and its neighbors in the Kohala Watershed Partnership are using their resources and support from the NAR Fund to control invasive species and protect 65,000 acres of native forests and watersheds.

With help from the NAR Fund’s Forest Stewardship Program, Hui Ku Maoli Ola will restore over 30 acres of land in Ha’iku valley. Keeping the NAR Fund percentage at 25 percent and the Land Conservation Fund percentage at 10 percent is a small investment for such large, sustainable and long-term benefits for our island communities.

Herbert “Monty” Richards of Kahua Ranch, Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth of MA’O Organic Farms and Rick Barboza of Hui Ku Maoli Ola wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.

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sunset-mauna-kea

All in the same month! (The good, the bad, and the ugly):

– The “Na Kupuna Council O Moku O Keawe”, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the Mayor-Elect for Hawaii Island came out in support of protecting Mauna Kea from uncontrolled telescope construction. (Maika’i!)

– Proponents moved forward with plans to seek the construction the new, massive Thirty Meter Telescope proposed for Mauna Kea, despite the fact that there is NO court-mandated mangement plan in place to protect cultural and environmental resources of the mountain. (Bad)

– The Land Board agreed to hand-over management authority of the Natural Area Reserve on Mauna Kea to the proponent of all the telescope construction on the summit: The University of Hawaii. (Ugh. Lee.)

On this last item, over 400 of you submitted letters to the Land Board opposing this give-away.

But with glossy photos of the sacred summit and empty promises to better protect the unique resources of the summit, the University’s self-appointed advisory group called the “Office of Mauna Kea Management” lulled Land Board members into believing the University has the expertise and motivation to protect the Natural Area Reserve on Mauna Kea.

The community knows better. The University’s presence on the summit has only led to 40 years of over-development, loss of native habitat, and interference with traditional cultural practices.

The Reserve should not be managed by the University in any way. The mission of the Mauna Kea Reserve is to protect the natural and cultural resources of the area, which is in direct conflict with the University’s mission to expand telescope activities on the summit. In fact, the Reserve was established and removed from the University’s control in 1981 precisely because the significant resources there needed more protection from the University’s telescope construction.

The Reserve on Mauna Kea protects a unique and threatened mountainous desert habitat and Hawaii’s only alpine lake, Lake Waiau. The Reserve includes the largest adze quarrry in the Pacific, ancient and modern burials, and Queen Emma’s shrine. These are public trust lands–Hawaiian lands held by the state in public trust for the people of Hawaii. Protecting this area needs management by experts in land conservation and cultural resources, not telescope construction.

The University has an appalling record of protecting resources while it constructed over 50 telescope and support structures on Mauna Kea. A 2005 EIS confirmed that the cumulative impact of 30 years of telescope activity on the cultural and natural resources of Mauna Kea has been “substantial, adverse and significant.” And this trend continues today, despite the mantra there is “a new management paradigm” on Mauna Kea. Just as it has done many times before, the University is currently pushing to draft a management plan on its own terms, not the community’s, while at the same time entertaining the construction of a new massive telescope on the last pristine plateau of Mauna Kea.

The University has long sought more direct control over the mountain to further its long-standing financial interest in developing the summit for telescopes. This week, the Land Board’s decision brought the University one step closer to consolidating its control over the summit.

But there are many opportunities coming up to reign in the University and telescope activity on Mauna Kea. Stay tuned to help out in the effort to uphold the protections already on the books for Mauna Kea. In January, we expect the University to once again seek the Legislature’s approval to change the law to allow continued telescope expansion on the summit. The University has tried and failed many times before to command complete control over the summit, but each time the community has successfully educated decision-makers on good policy-making and upheld the protections for Mauna Kea.

Let’s get ready to do it again this year!

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