DLNRS KAENA POINT POLICY IS MUDDIED
||Although recent policy changes and
enforcement actions at Kaena Point, by the
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Conservation and Enforcement, are unclear,
what is clear is that they are preventing fishermen from driving into the Kaena
Point fishing area as previously allowed
Both fishermen and sources at DLNR told
EnviroWatch Inc. that the sudden, abrupt change in policy
came about last October after a complaint was filed by then DLNRS Deputy
Chairperson, Janet Kawelo.
While Kawelo and members of her family
were visiting Kaena Points endangered species plant project area they noticed
a number of vehicles, including 4-wheel drives and dirt bikes, traveling beyond the closed
gate. Kawelo particularly noted that
the vehicles were joy-riding and tearing up the landscape.
As part of her complaint she documented the license plate numbers and sent a letter
to Mr. Gary Moniz, DOCAREs Enforcement Chief.
We were informed that Kewalo specifically told Moniz that 4-wheel drive vehicles have a negative impact on
the area but fishermens vehicles are much less serious.
|STUCK IN THE MUD .....
For unknown reasons, little
or nothing was done by DOCARE to properly investigate Kawelos complaint. Instead,
Moniz ordered his field officers to conduct a registration check and send
notices of violation to the vehicle owners. The
question is, was he going to prosecute the owners or the drivers of vehicles, and what was
he going to rely on for evidence? We
questioned Moniz about the issue but he did not respond.
However, it is evident that this may be another case of unlawful
arrests and citizens deprived of due process by state agencies.
Even more appalling is the fact that Moniz and his deputies
ordered DOCARE officers to begin issuing citations to all vehicles entering the
prohibited area, including those belonging to fishermen.
Although we do not know exactly what the orders were,
whatever they were should have, at minimum, been legal, sensible and fair to
fishermen and other members of the community. The
departments actions, or reactions, should have been thought through before they were
implemented, and the public should have been
For many years the public has been allowed to drive to Kaena
Point to fish. For just as long,
DLNRs management policy on vehicles has been vague and confusing. Cars have been abandoned and left to rust, trash has been dumped, and motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles have been
allowed to scour the area. Several
years ago, while hiking along the beach, I saw motorcycles doing wheelies and spinouts
dislodge human remains from a Hawaiian burial site. I
reported the incident to DLNR but no one bothered to check.
There have been many other such incidents reported to DLNR, where motorcycles and other vehicles were seen
tearing up the landscape, but nothing was
done. However, after Kawelo made one visit to
Kaena Point the entire area was closed to fishermen.
This was done without any public notice or other form of advisement. At the order of Mr. Moniz and his deputies, fishermen were kicked out and the area was closed
in an instant.
Members of the Oahu Shoreline Fishing Coalition (O.S.F.C), an organization formed in 1996 to prevent
the closure of Kaena Point, told us that the sudden closure of Kaena Point is a drastic
measure and is not consistent with past agreements or statements made by DLNR. Previously they had been told by DLNR
that Kaena Point will always be open to both fishermen and their vehicles.
In the past, when new laws were passed or current laws changed, the public was advised and given warnings or grace
periods. For example, last year
DLNR gave longline fishermen notices and a grace period when new laws banning shark fining
were passed. Why wasnt there a grace
period or public service announcement about the closure of Kaena Point?
We are reminded of a key
point regarding this situation. Ms.
Janet Kawelo was not just your every day Joe Blow Citizen who just happened to be visiting
Kaena Point. She was the Deputy
Chairperson of DLNR, responsible for the
overall management of our natural resources. One
of her jobs was to protect the interest of the public by affording the public fair and
clear enforcement policies as they relate to access to fishing areas as well as to other
natural resource management issues. Since she
specifically noted in her complaint that
fishermens vehicles have a much less serious impact,
Kawelo could have just as easily used her authority to assign additional
officers to Kaena Point to take care of the area. Clearly
stated rules with officers on patrol can stop joyriding while letting fishermen enter,
drive at a safe speed limit to their favorite spot, and
park as usual.
STUCK IN THE MIRE
Other sources wishing to remain anonymous told us that part of the
blame for the abrupt change in policy allegedly might have been due to a cover
up Moniz and his deputies initiated after their failure to address Kawelos complaint
in a timely manner. To speed up
the process, they basically demoted one of their supervisors by assigning him to Kaena
Point to do an assessment and take legal actions against the vehicles Kawelo and her
family reported seeing. A junior
officer was then assigned to manage the demoted supervisors district. If
Monizs intent were to make an assessment, why would he
demote or strip a supervisor of his responsibility, or even authorize such
an action? Why would he then assign a junior
officer as acting supervisor in the vacant supervisory position? We posed these and other questions to Moniz hoping
to get the facts but Moniz refused to respond, even
after telling us by telephone, on Tuesday January 8, 2002, that he would be providing a
response to our questions.
We have learned through conversations with various employees at DLNR
and DOCARE some very disturbing information that fits the pattern and may explain why
things dont get done. First, we were
told that the working climate at DOCARE is
one of vengeance and retaliation. DOCAREs
administration used this particular incident to build a case against a couple of officers
they have on a hit list of sort. While I do not have proof or the exact number, I have been informed by one of Monizs
deputies ,there is a list of officers the administration considers dead wood and wants to get rid of.
Secondly, we were told Kaena
Point receives little or no attention because so many officers have been assigned to
Diamond Head and other popular trails to investigate T-shirt vendors. Reportedly, up to twelve officers are
assigned to the Diamond Head trail twice a
week in four-hour shifts. While officers
watch the T-shirt vendors, 4-wheel and
all-terrain vehicles continue to run amok, with little or no concern from DOCARE.
The photograph on this page, showing 4-wheelers mired in mud, tell it all.
Beside the numerous vehicles roaming (or not roaming) around, we
saw people with unleashed dogs even though the law requires all dogs be kept on leash. The leash law is important for several reasons, one of which is to protect ground nesting Laysan
albatross from the dogs. We also saw people
harvesting yucca plants, loading them on their pickup truck, and driving out. We did not see a single officer the entire day we spent documenting and
photographing Kaena Point last December. This
may suggest that DOCAREs actions were meant to
appease Kawelo and her family, and that sound
natural resources management is of little concern to the department.
CLEAR AS MUD
In order to provide the public
with a better understanding of DLNRs policy regarding the various laws and
regulations relating to Kaena Point, EnviroWatch
Inc. sent a letter to DLNRs Chairman, Gilbert Coloma-Agaran, then Deputy Chairwoman Janet Kawelo, and DOCARE Enforcement Chief Gary Moniz, requesting information and asking questions about the handling of Kawelos complaint. Unfortunately we did not receive a response. Some of the questions we asked are:
What are the specific laws that
relate to entering the Kaena Point Area? What
is your Agencys official policy as it relates to vehicles entering the area?
Has your Department taken legal
actions against the vehicles documented by Kawelo?
If so how many were cited and what laws were they charged with?
Did you or your Deputy order
officers to deny entry to all vehicles?
Will you be increasing
enforcement to address the unlawful entry of Kaena Point?
If fishermen and others drive
their vehicles past the gate will your department issue notice of violations, make
arrests, seize vehicles or take civil actions against them?
Keeping in mind the fragility and
sensitive nature of some of the endangered and native plant flora and fauna found in the
area, why did it take a complaint from your Deputy to trigger enforcement actions?
What are you doing to address
illegal repelling in the Kaena point area where endangered and native species are found?
DLNR may not be obligated to respond to our request for information, but they surely have an obligation to properly
post the area with signs and public notices
that clearly state the rules and any change in policy.
The main gate, though locked, doesnt have any signs. Although there is a single sign on the up
hill trail, there is a road without signs about 50 feet from the gate that allows you to
drive directly into the property.
I respect and share Kawelos
interest in endangered plants, but
leaving the public to fend for itself with the threat of being arrested for not
understanding DLNRS policy is a breach
of public trust that should not be tolerated. It is a difficult enough task to strike a
balance between providing fishermen and other members of the public opportunities to use
and enjoy the resources of this State while providing protection to endangered and
threatened species and their habitat. DLNRs
actions only serve to detract and alienate fishermen, hunters and others from accepting
any proposed or existing resource management effort implemented by the DLNR.
Although Kawelo initiated the events leading to the
closure she has since left her position with DLNR, leaving the final resolution in the hands of DLNR Chairman
DLNRs refusal to respond to our questions shows a lack of
respect for the public it supposedly serves. It
also exposes our fishermen to legal entrapment. I
urge anyone who wants to fish Kaena Point to find out what the current laws are before
going in. We hope to have better news
about this subject in the next issue of the Hawaii Fishing News.