DLNR chairman lists agency’s accomplishments
Peter Young, chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, provided state lawmakers last week with a laundry list of recent accomplishments by his embattled agency.
In an effort to better update the Legislature and public, Young detailed several projects and initiatives by the department, which came under heavy criticism this year from environmental and cultural groups.
Critics have accused the department of mismanagement and placing private landowners above the public trust. Some have even called for Young's resignation.
"There's a lot of good news to share about DLNR, the partnerships that it's forming and the good work of what the people of DLNR and the partnerships are doing," Young said. "It's a message we want to share with others, not in a bragging sense, but in a sense that the protection of our natural and cultural resources are the responsibilities of each of us."
The three key achievements by the land department that Young noted were:
» The Office of Hawaiian Affairs' acquisition of 25,856 acres of Big Island rain forest, known as the Wao Kele o Puna forest, for conservation.
» Partnerships with private landowners to protect nine forested watersheds across the state, comprising nearly 1 million acres of land.
» A new program with the Community Conservation Network, the Nature Conservancy and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund to create "Mauka-Makai Watch," a program similar to a neighborhood crime watch to protect natural and cultural resources.
Clyde Namuo, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said the two state agencies have worked well together in recent months.
"Like many folks in government, we were somewhat skeptical of DNLR's progress. During the last legislative session, there was a time where the Legislature asked Peter to really look again at what he was doing. OHA had concerns as well," Namuo said. "I think the period between the last session and now, we've made significant progress in terms of working together."
Scott Atkinson, Hawaii program director for the Community Conservation Network, said the "Mauka-Makai Watch" is currently under way in three communities on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island with plans of adding five more areas in the next few years.
"There's a lot of problems, and most of them stem from a lack of understanding of the resource regulations and what is appropriate behavior to protect marine resources," he said.