First, good news - the House Lower and Higher Education Committee amended SB3103, the School Facilities Agency bill, aka the "Desecration for our Keiki" bill, to strip out the proposed agency's environmental and historic preservation exemptions. Committee Chair Justin Woodson should be commended for hearing and addressing the environmental and cultural concerns around this controversial measure.
Contact Senator Dela Cruz now at 586-6090 or via e-mail at email@example.com to voice your opposition to HB2035's public "pasture" land giveaway.
Meanwhile, HB2035, the public "pasture" lands giveaway bill, was amended to reduce the 100,000-plus acres of public lands that would have been transferred to the Department of Agriculture, to specific parcels encompassing about 45,000 acres. Development exemptions would still apply to these lands once they are transferred, and vaguely described "watershed partnership plans" that would now be required for "current lessees" of these lands are unlikely to address hunting access, habitat protection, and other issues far outside of the expertise of the Department of Agriculture's staff person overseeing these lands. One notable amendment made was to require 50% of the livestock or meat raised on these public lands to be sold on the local market - a requirement that industry proponents are almost certainly fighting to remove, as we speak.
Here's what one constituent had to say in their well-worded testimony on this amended bill:
Aloha Chair Dela Cruz and members of the WAM Committee,
This bill's "pilot program" is a thinly disguised special legislation to provide unfair advantages to a few big ranchers. Why would those four ranches be chosen and not others? This bill should be rejected and deemed unlawful special legislation.
Further, the ranches that were chosen are actually the areas that have the most diverse and varied resources with the most public benefits. Because DLNR manages Kapapala Ranch, they have negotiated a large cooperative hunting area, access to the Ainapo na ala hele trail (and cabin) - ensuring that the public benefits on those public lands truly are enjoyed by the public. If the DOA manages that area, there will be no advocating for public access, hunting, and native forest protection.
It is ironic that this bill, which is in theory supposed to help "food self sufficiency" would actually result in the blocking off of 28,000 acres of prime, accessible public hunting area for the community in the likely scenario that DOA does not work with the ranch to continue the cooperative Game Management Area, which DLNR oversees as the leasor.
There are large tracts of lands in Mauna Kea that are sought to be transferred to DOA. I am from Hilo and spent a summer working near these lands to restore a koa forest which provided habitat for our imperiled forest birds. On one side of the fence was a lush native forest, and the other side was a barren treeless cattle pasture. These areas have the potential to naturally regrow. Many of the lands in Kapapala are still native forest.
It is not pono to give some of our last remaining tracts of native Hawaiian forest and wilderness areas to DOA. Under DOA, cattle and "no trespassing" signs will be the only future for these public lands that have so much more potential for hunting, hiking, and our native plants and animals that could be our legacy for future generations.
The ball is now in Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Donovan Dela Cruz's court. Will he bow to the ranching industry's pressure to restore the bill and remove what minimal amendments have been made? Will he listen to concerns regarding the development exemptions and lack of oversight and public interest protections proposed for over 45,000 acres of public "pasture" lands? Contact Senator Dela Cruz now at 586-6090 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your opposition to this public "pasture" land giveaway.