On August 14, we’ll be partying hearty at the `Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, celebrating a quarter-century of investigative environmental journalism in Hawai`i. Reserve your place now by calling us at (808) 934-0115 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The event starts at 6 p.m.
Did you know that before Environment Hawai`i came along, the state had no media watchdog dedicated to covering the Board of Land and Natural Resources? Back then, in 1990, the Land Board routinely held “dress rehearsals” of its meetings the evening before the scheduled public event, so that the board members could agree on how they would vote. Questions raised by EH helped bring this flagrantly illegal practice to an end.
Then, too, there was the practice of the Land Board to hold secret “briefings” where members would hear staff explain issues, with no opportunity for the public to witness what was being said or to testify. When we protested, we were told we could attend (if we could ever find out when the briefings were scheduled), but not testify. Next, the board grudgingly agreed to send out notices of briefings — but again, no public testimony was allowed. Fed up with this, Environment Hawai`i joined forces with Common Cause-Hawai`i and sued. The case never came to trial, since the state had no defense at all. After a stipulated judgement was entered, in which the Land Board agreed to end these “briefings,” to call them “meetings,” and to allow public testimony, our attorneys at the Mid-Pacific office of Earthjustice received more than $60,000 from the state to pay for their fees and costs.
Times have changed and many of the abuses we witnessed at the start of our work no longer exist. But new ones always seem to be cropping up. When the ill-fated Public Lands Development Corporation scheduled its first meeting, it was Environment Hawai`i that pointed out the notice for the meeting was seriously flawed. The meeting was scratched. When the state Agribusiness Development Corporation held a meeting at a remote site in Kunia, with no signage or maps made available to the public, EH writer Teresa Dawson filed a protest with the Office of Information Practices. Actions taken at that meeting were later voted on at a more accessible, duly noticed meeting.
We continue to chase leads down bureaucratic dark alleys where few others have trod. Our reports are based on serious legwork and beat coverage — never ever on press releases.
At a time when news across the state has been homogenized and pasteurized and consolidated into easily digested pap, our reports continue to have substance, addressing difficult issues but always with a view to making them understood to motivated readers concerned about the fate of Hawai`i’s unique assemblage of flora and fauna, its precious and limited natural resources, and its still-abundant but often threatened beauty.
Please help keep us going as long as the need exists. Read us. Subscribe. Donate. And come to our party!