10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF MIKULINA
Sierra Club of Hawaii Director Jeff Mikulina, shown at the conservation district on Kauai's Polihale Beach, calls the Legacy Lands Act taxing high-end real estate sales to fund management of natural areas "far and away ... the most significant accomplishment (in 2005) for Hawaii's environment."
He walks softly to protect the sticks
UNAFRAID to publicly prod those whom he doesn't think are doing right by the environment, Sierra Club of Hawaii Director Jeff Mikulina also is willing to talk things out.
Mikulina has been wielding his mix of aggressive lobbying and polite compromise since taking the helm of the 5,100-member Hawaii chapter of the national organization in 1999. Among the fruits of his labor in 2005:
Through the end of the year, the Star-Bulletin will recognize 10 who changed Hawaii this year. Some were controversial, others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference.
» The Legacy Lands Act taxes high-end real estate sales to provide steady funding to both manage the state's most pristine natural areas and to buy more public wilderness.
» Hawaii's "Bottle Bill" not only survived attempts to kill it off in its first year, but gained several amendments intended to make it work better.
» The Sierra Club and Public Access Shoreline Hawaii withdrew a lawsuit against the state, after Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young promised his department would set shoreline boundaries with rules plaintiffs expect will better protect public lands.
Mikulina calls the Legacy Lands Act "far and away was the most significant accomplishment (in 2005) for Hawaii's environment." He is quick to credit a spectrum of environmental, land, farming and Hawaiian organizations with cooperating to pass the act -- and Gov. Linda Lingle for signing it.
"The Sierra Club has been working for years to establish a dedicated funding source to proactively protect special places before it is too late," Mikulina said.
He noted that if a court decides Waimea Valley is worth more than the city paid for it, this fund could be one way to cover the cost.
Of the state's recycling program, Mikulina said: "The bottom line is that the program has helped recover half a billion bottles and cans in its first year. With grocery stores serving as redemption centers and improved management from the Department of Health, this program will be even better in years ahead."
"You know, looking back, it was really a great year for Hawaii's environment, particularly for land and habitat protection," Mikulina said last week from Wisconsin, where he was visiting relatives.
Even on vacation, he was thinking about ways to convince Mayor Mufi Hannemann that implementing curbside recycling should be a priority.
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York canceled New York's curbside program, until he realized it was uneconomic for them to not have curbside," Mikulina said.
"The clock is ticking on the closure of our main landfill," he added, "and Honolulu is the largest city in the nation with no curbside recycling collection."