Hawaii vulnerable to brown tree snake
Funds to prevent the snake from infesting Hawaii have been cut.
IGNORANCE about the threat brown tree snakes pose
to Hawaii continues in Congress as once again funds to prevent their spread to the islands from Guam have been denied.
Almost every go-round in the budget process has Hawaii's delegation, primarily Sen. Daniel Inouye, explaining the need for inspections of military cargo to keep the destructive reptile from our shores.
But it seems mainland lawmakers have short memories, are unenlightened or just don't care that Hawaii's significant support for the nation's military presents environmental and economic risks that require compensation and protection.
The program to inspect military ships and planes in Guam -- where snakes have caused the extinction of nine of 12 native forest birds and an average of 200 power failures a year -- costs a mere $2 million a year.
The state inspects cargo from Guam, but hasn't the staff or money to search the military's ships and planes. Hawaii's revenue surplus should allow a strengthened program, but state officials don't seem to place much of a priority on invasive species until they become a major problem.
They should. A University of Hawaii study estimates that if the snakes become established here, the economic cost could amount to $405 million a year.
The inspections on Guam are the first line of defense against the snake, fighting them there so we won't have to fight them here.
Checks of commercial freight at civilian ports will continue, but without the funding, military inspections will stop on May 31.
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