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Tuesday, December 10, 2002



[ OUR OPINION ]

Cooperation on rare
Hawaiian bat may reap
mutual benefits


THE ISSUE

Conservationists and the timber industry collaborate on research to protect the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat.



COMMERCIAL and conservation interests frequently conflict when rare or endangered plants and animals are involved. Such situations may lead to lengthy legal battles and antagonism. It is commendable, then, that an effort is being made now to avoid possible friction between the state's nascent timber industry and the tiny Hawaiian hoary bat.

The cooperative endeavor seeks to conduct research on the endangered bat, the only land mammal native to the islands. Not much is known about the bat's habitats, characteristics or behavior. The 'ope'ape'a lives in forested areas, primarily on Kauai and on the Big Island, where the state hopes to expand a timber industry as part of a diversification of Hawaii's economy. However, until more information is collected about the animals, there can be little assurance that removing trees will not harm them.

art
MARK TANIMOTO / HONOLULU ZOO
The Hawaiian hoary bat.




The bats have been seen on most of the major islands, but breeding has been documented only on Kauai and Hawaii island, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. No one is quite sure how many of the elusive, nocturnal creatures exist, nor have habitats been identified other than in broad terms. In one incident, the state had proposed harvests in the Waiakea Timber Management Area where an environmental assessment reported no bats present. However, a researcher had recorded their sounds in the region.

The Hawaiian Hoary Bat Research Cooperative, involving federal and state wildlife and forestry agencies and industry interests, among others, is providing $415,000 and asking researchers to conduct a two- to three-year study before the expansion of a timber industry, which the state hopes will produce $100 million in annual revenue by 2005.

This approach makes sense. State and federal forest and wildlife agencies, whose duties are to protect natural resources, can do their jobs; commercial development can proceed while doing the least harm; and a unique creature can be given an opportunity to thrive.


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Lalea homeowners
face unsettling times


THE ISSUE

Residents at a Hawaii Kai complex have moved from their townhouses after boulders fell from a ridge above.



RESIDING in a Waikiki hotel may sound like a welcome respite, but the people who have had to vacate their Hawaii Kai homes because of the threat of falling rocks will face many challenges before this complex situation is resolved. That said, it appears that those who may hold some obligation -- and even those who may not -- are properly focusing on the welfare and safety of the homeowners.

The problem of falling rocks and boulders isn't unfamiliar to island residents, as the slides at Sacred Falls and Makapuu illustrate. But recently these geologic events have been taking place in more populated areas. A woman died last August when a boulder crashed through her home along a Nuuanu hillside. On Thanksgiving Day, at least one boulder damaged two cars outside Lalea townhouses, prompting the evacuation of about 57 residents from two buildings at the Hawaii Kai complex.

Castle & Cooke, the project's developer, and Kamehameha Schools, which owns some of the ridge land above Lalea, are putting up most of the residents at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort and picking up their expenses. For the near future, that's where they will live until other accommodations are arranged.

Meanwhile, children still have to get to their schools, adults have to go to work and the familiarity of home life will be disrupted. No one can say how long homeowners may have to stay away before the ridge can be stabilized -- if indeed it can. The effects on property values are unclear. Liability issues will have to be sorted out. Whether residents can regain their peace of mind with living under the ridge remains to be seen.

The outcome of the situation is as unpredictable as the geologic processes of nature. The homeowners can only take this one step at a time.



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Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533; jflanagan@starbulletin.com

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