[ OUR OPINION ]
Fight against snakes
must not be mocked
FEDERAL expenditures for fighting to keep the brown tree snake out of Hawaii have taken another swipe as "pork." It comes from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has included the program among his colleagues' pet projects that he regards as wasteful, such as money for Shakespeare plays in the military and research on canola oil. Most of McCain's colleagues recognize that brown tree snakes are not some cute obsession of Senator Inouye, who is responsible for putting the $1 million expenditure into the defense spending bill.
Sen. John McCain has criticized expenditures to combat brown tree snakes in his list of "pork" projects in the defense spending bill.
"Once again," McCain says, "the brown tree snake has slithered its way into our defense appropriations act." The program provoked the same kind of sneers in 1997, when President Clinton included it in his budget instead of it being added by Congress at the behest of Hawaii's congressional delegation. Inouye explained that the brown tree snake was "a major threat to the biodiversity of the Pacific region and other areas at risk."
Inouye understated the case. John Berry, assistant secretary of interior in the Clinton administration, said in 1998 that the snake's slithering into Hawaii would create the islands' "greatest catastrophe of the century."
The snakes, which can grow to 10 feet, have destroyed nine of Guam's 12 native bird species, causing plant pollination and insect control to suffer. In the absence of any remaining birds, the snakes prey on Guam's poultry and pets and have even bitten infants' hands and feet, causing life-threatening trauma, according to U.S. biologists.
"The chain effect of this is enormous," Berry said. "This is the most significant environmental threat to the Hawaiian archipelago, bar none, of this century."
Thousands of snake traps have been distributed in Guam to combat the problem, but the fear that even a single snake will find a way onto a Hawaii-bound ship is of concern. One pregnant female could cause a flourishing of the snakes, since sperm can survive in females for up to four years.
The brown tree snake expenditures have been ridiculed for years, but even McCain seems to agree they may be worthwhile. "No matter the arguments over how the problem of the brown tree snake arose," he says, "the funding necessary to its eradication does not belong in the Defense Appropriations Act." If McCain can find a bill that he considers more appropriate, Hawaii's congressional delegation should accommodate him.
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Trials will give isles
NATIONWIDE television coverage of sporting events in Hawaii are a major plus for Hawaii's tourist industry, and Honolulu's selection to host U.S. Olympic triathlon trials presents the most recent opportunity. The Hawaii race is scheduled for April 18, while parts of the country still will be thawing out from the winter. The sight of athletes swimming, riding bikes and running in the warmth and beauty of Hawaii will coincide with many families' planning of their vacations.
Honolulu has been chosen as one of two cities to host the U.S. Olympic trials for the triathlon at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
Honolulu and Bellingham, Wash., were selected by USA Triathlon as the sites for competition of athletes seeking to participate in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. The other cities vying for the trials were Clermont, Fla., and Tempe, Ariz.
Most of Hawaii's televised sporting events occur in January and February, including the PGA golf tournaments on Maui and Oahu, the Hula Bowl and the Pro Bowl. The Hawaii Tourism Authority funds 21 sporting events, including the golf and football competition, the Maui Invitational college basketball tournament, marlin and billfish fishing tournaments and the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in October. The authority's $7.5 million sports marketing budget is warranted because of the valuable television coverage.
"This is absolutely a plus for the city and state on many levels," says Herman Frazier, the University of Hawaii's athletic director and U.S. Olympic Committee vice president. "There will be a lot of media covering the trials and sending reports all over the country."
First-place men and women finishers in Hawaii and at the International Triathlon Union world championship in Portugal will qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, while winners of the Bellingham triathlon in June will complete the six-person team. Triathlon events include a 1,500-meter swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 61/4-mile run.
Hawaii's selection came as no surprise to John Korff, the New York consultant who helped submit the state's bid. "Go outside and look around," he said. "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure this out."