Environmental Groups Oppose DLNR Director Appointment

February 21, 2015, 9:28 AM HST · Updated February 21, 9:31 AM
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DLNR SealBy Maui Now Staff

Several environmental groups across the state released a joint statement in opposition to the nomination of Carleton Ching as director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Outdoor Circle, Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Conservation Council of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, Friends of Lāna‘i, Sierra Club and Hawai‘i Progressive Democrats released the statement last week after the Senate Committee on Water and Land announced that the confirmation hearing for Ching’s appointment would be held on Wednesday, March 11.

Over 20 environmental groups came out in opposition to the nomination within days of last month’s nomination announcement.

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“Since then, Mr. Ching’s prospects have only gone from bad to worse,” the release stated. “Well over 7,000 people have signed a petition opposing this nomination and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser deemed Ching the “Wrong Decision.”

“DLNR deserves an expert at its helm,” said Marti Townsend, executive director of The Outdoor Circle. “After marathon meetings with community leaders over the last month, Mr. Ching still has not demonstrated a command of the subject matter.”

In constituent meetings, the release said, “Mr. Ching spoke in general of finding efficiencies and ‘improving the department’s margins.’ DLNR is notoriously under-funded and under-staffed, due, in part, to budget decisions made by the Legislature.”

“DLNR is critically important to protecting Hawai‘i’s natural abundance for all of its people,” said Bianca Isaki, KAHEA board member. “There is no time for on-the-job training for this agency’s leader.”

The environmental groups raised concerns about Ching’s close ties to organizations that advocate to weaken environmental protections. For example, the release stated that Ching served as president of the pro-development lobby group Land Use Research Foundation in 2008, and vice president in 2009 and 2010.

The release listed LURF’s activities:

  • LURF fought hard to convince the US Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce critical habitat designations and mandated conservation areas.
  • LURF successfully lobbied to reduce requirements for developer applicant reviews by the state Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
  • LURF successfully lobbied to require the state Department of Health to delete various protections involving native Hawaiian rights, historic preservation, coastal zone management and environmental impact reviews for storm water management permits.
  • LURF actively opposed the requirement of landowners to provide lateral access along the coastline.
  • LURF has also been extremely active in the annual effort to weaken HRS Chapter 343 (Environemental Impact Statement laws.
  • LURF was a core supporter of the Public Lands Development Corporation and opposed the establishment of Hawai‘i’s Environmental Court.

“By contrast, the Department of Land and Natural Resources is responsible for managing, administering and exercising control over public lands, water resources, ocean waters, navigable streams, coastal areas (except commercial harbors), minerals and all interests therein,” the statement continued. “The department’s jurisdiction encompasses nearly 1.3 million acres of state lands, beaches and coastal waters, as well as 750 miles of coastline (the fourth longest in the country). It includes state parks, historical sites, forests and forest reserves, aquatic life and its sanctuaries, public fishing areas, boating, ocean recreation, and coastal programs, wildlife and its sanctuaries, game management areas, public hunting areas and natural area reserves.”

The original 24 groups opposed to Ching’s nomination are: Sierra Club, The Outdoor Circle, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, Life of the Land, Friends of Lāna‘i, Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i, Earthjustice, Defend O‘ahu Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Āina, Kupa‘a No Lāna‘i, LOST FISH Coalition, MANA (Movement for Aloha No Ka ‘Āina), Maui Tomorrow, Puna Pono Alliance, Wailua-Kapa‘a Neighborhood Association, West Maui Preservation Association, Kanehili Coalition, O‘ahu Chapter of the Aha Moku Council and ‘Ilio‘ulaokalani Coalition.

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