Thursday, April 14, 2005


Conquering the coqui
requires funding
from the state


Maui real estate agents and residents have taken on the battle against the noisy frogs.

Environmental issues don't often get a lot of attention from most lawmakers, but economic ones do, and real estate businesses have a voice loud enough to be heard above the noisy coqui frogs that have the potential to harm property values and sales on Maui and elsewhere in the state.

The Realtors Association of Maui, which has taken a lead in pointing up the problem, and a group of residents near Makawao, who have banded together to fight the frogs without government help, should be applauded.

Even so, the frogs are widespread enough for the Legislature to fund eradication programs specifically aimed at coquis, which a bill the Senate cleared this week does.

Despite concern from the Department of Land and Natural Resources that earmarking money for coquis would steal attention from the larger problem of invasive species, such a designation would focus efforts. Moreover, funds for coqui eradication should not take away allocations to counter other infestations.

It appears that Hawaii will have to go it alone in battling the frogs since the U.S. Department of Agriculture has unreasonably rejected a grant for a Big Island eradication program. The development handicaps the state's plan, but one community remains dauntless.

About a dozen residents in the Makawao area meet monthly to plan frog hunts, realizing that the pests don't recognize property lines and that to get rid of them permanently, neighbors have to join forces. The group goes out after dark, when male frogs emit their piercing chirps, to locate and destroy the coquis.

They use their own money to do this. One man paid about $700 for a spray pack and spends about $300 a month for citric acid that has proven effective against the coqui. "It's all about people power," said Adam Radford of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

While people power works on the ground, the real estate group, concerned about the frogs' effect on property values and agents' responsibility to alert buyers to infestation, is lobbying government officials to help out. The group wants lawmakers to provide funds and is talking with county officials, who are drafting a bill to require landowners to keep their properties free of pest species.

The problem is ecological, said Bob Hansen, head of the association's coqui subcommittee, but it also could lower property values. Even in today's booming market, few would want to buy a house if chirping frogs will keep them awake at night.

Maui's infestation isn't as bad as the Big Island's, which earlier this year reduced Mayor Harry Kim to begging for help from the state. If his pleas aren't enough, perhaps the barks from business will make legislators listen.

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