New & Noteworthy

Council Loses an Advisor: Robin Baird, one of the leading experts on false killer whales in waters around Hawai`i, has resigned from the Protected Species Advisory Committee of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac).

Baird resigned effective January 31. The reason given, in a letter to Wespac executive director Kitty Simonds, was the behavior of Milani Chaloupka. Chaloupka, who is an expert in population modeling for sea turtles, sits on both the PSAC and the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee.

In late January, the PSAC met, and at the conclusion of the meeting, Baird was invited to make a presentation on his false killer whale research to a subcommittee of the council SSC.

“This presentation focused on work that is in progress,” Baird wrote. “I was happy to provide information to the SSC, and to get feedback on ways we could improve our analytical methods…

“However, I’m not willing to be involved in what I consider to be an abusive work environment, and Milani’s behavior in the SSC’s subcommittee meeting was both unprofessional and highly inappropriate. In normal work environments, it is clear to me that his tone and adversarial questioning would be considered abusive behavior and would not be tolerated, and I am certainly not willing to tolerate it.”

Baird concluded by stating that the council is ill-served by Chaloupka’s presence on several advisory panels: “having someone who engages in such inappropriate and abusive behavior serving on several Council committees does not benefit the Council in any way, and Council members should take this into consideration.”

Jim Lynch, a Seattle attorney who chairs the Protected Species Advisory Committee and who also sits on the SSC, declined to comment on the events that led up to Baird’s resignation.

Prove It: Kaua`i County already has a problem with luxury residences with no ties to farming of any kind being built on agricultural land under the guise that they are “farm dwellings.” Wary that something similar may happen with two proposed “conservation management” structures in Kilauea, Kaua`i, the Kaua`i Planning Commission is pressuring landowner Charles Somers to prove why, in addition to his sprawling, 10,000-square foot hilltop complex (a.k.a. his “farm dwelling”), he needs to build a 2,500 square-foot conservation manager’s residence and a maintenance building that was originally designed to include a loft and a bathroom.

THe Hawaiian Islands Land Trust holds two conservation easements over 150 acres of Somers’ property, but they do not require him to conduct any conservation activities. If he chooses to, however, the trust would need to approve a habitat conservation plan.

Because the new structures are purported to serve conservation management activities, some commissioners wanted to see the plan first.

At its January 28 meeting, commissioners deferred taking action on Somers’ request to modify the zoning, use, and SMA permits the county granted in 2008 for the initial residence to allow for the new structures. Instead, the commission directed Somers’ attorney, Jonathan Chun, to return to the commission with a draft habitat conservation plan that has received at least tentative approval from the land trust.

Given that preparing a draft plan will likely take some time, Chun agreed to waive the 60-day time limit the commission has to decide on Somers’ request. Chun added that although the easements don’t require Somers to actively conserve the property, such commitments can be achieved through other means, perhaps through permit modifications.

Commissioner Angela Anderson suggested that Somers should also be required to submit a farm plan, since the property is zoned for agriculture.

 

Volume 24, Number 9 March 2014

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