BACKGROUND Courtesy of David Henkin, Earth Justice
In 1997, when the Legislature amended the state’s endangered species law to allow for the incidental “take” (killing, harming, wounding, and harassing) of endangered and threatened species through safe harbor agreements (SHAs) and habitat conservation plans (HCPs), it recognized the importance of keeping close tabs on activities that, if improperly managed, could drive Hawai‘i’s critically imperiled native plants and animals to extinction. Accordingly, the initial legislation established a five-year sunset on the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR’s) authority to issue incidental take licenses, SHAs and HCPs. While the Legislature has twice extended the sunset date, it has affirmed the need for periodic review of DLNR’s performance and consistently rejected requests to remove the sunset date altogether. House Draft 1 of SB 2277 would lift the sunset date, without providing any alternate checks and balances.
1. Oversight is critical to ensure that DLNR acts responsibly in issuing licenses to kill and injure endangered species. Accordingly, the Legislature should either keep the sunset date in place or provide alternate oversight, so that future generations can continue to enjoy our unique native flora and fauna.
2. Proven, effective alternatives to legislative oversight exist. The Legislature should bring our state law in line with the federal Endangered Species Act, which has – since its inception in 1973 – encouraged citizens to take action to protect imperiled species.
3. Particularly in these difficult economic times, with government services being cut back, it is vital for the Legislature to encourage Hawai‘i’s citizenry to assist in preventing harm to our imperiled plants and animals.