Saturday, January 10, 2004

2 firms fined $149,000
for illegal Big Isle logging

They had harvested koa and
ohia trees in a conservation area

The state fined two related Oahu companies $149,430 yesterday for illegally harvesting 135 koa trees and two ohia trees on Big Island land during 2000.

Koa Timber, which did the logging, and Hawaii Forest Preservation LLC, which owns the land six miles northwest of Hilo, are both owned by Kyle Dong, who gives a business address in Kapolei.

After a state investigation, Koa Timber admitted that it wrongly harvested trees on 13 acres in the state conservation district. The company maintains that it thought it was working in adjacent agriculture district land, where logging is allowed without a state permit.

Koa Timber proposes ultimately to harvest koa from a total of 11,400 acres owned by Hawaii Forest Preservation. The companies' application to the state to do that is on hold until the current fines are paid and an environmental impact statement for the larger project is revised to address state and federal concerns.

Dong's attorney, Danton Wong, told the state Board of Land & Natural Resources yesterday that his client would pay the fine over the next five months and spend up to $20,000 to develop and implement a rehabilitation plan for the damaged land.

The fine includes $8,430 in costs to the state for investigation, $137,000 (or $1,000 per tree) for the destruction of native trees, $2,000 for unauthorized grubbing and grading, and $2,000 for an unauthorized haul road.

Wong tried to convince the board yesterday to deduct the cost of rehabilitating the land from Dong's fine amount. He noted that the companies want to "sustainably" harvest koa on the 11,400 acres and are developing an extensive program to remove alien plants and promote the re-growth of 36 new koa trees for every one harvested.

This is the second time in six months that the Land Board has issued a fine for illegal koa logging.

In July the board fined Damon Estate for illegally logging 712 koa trees between 1992 and 2001 on conservation land it owned on the Big Island. Though the board originally sought a $480,335 fine in April, it agreed to allow Damon Estate to instead pay for $254,000 worth of fencing to help keep hoofed animals out of areas were koa is being regrown on what is now part of Volcanoes National Park.

Steve Baczkiewicz, who did the logging for Damon, is contesting a proposed $1.37 million fine.


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