New & Noteworthy

posted in: December 2008 | 0

Little Ant, Big Problem: It’s only a sixteenth of an inch long, but don’t underestimate the punch it packs. The little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) was first found on the Big Island in 1999. Although a quarantine was placed on plants shipped from the Big Island, it turned up at Kilauea, Kaua`i, in 2004.

On the Big Island, it has grown from a nuisance to a major threat – to agriculture, to the health of humans, their livestock and their pets (which can be blinded by ant stings) to property values, and even to native birds. Last month, the Hawai`i County Council’s Committee on Environmental Management held a hearing on a resolution urging the county administration to set up a task force and coordinator to control infestations of the little fire ant – LFA – on the island.

The resolution drew widespread support from farmers who testified first-hand about the pain the ants inflict – economic as well as physical. While eradication may not be possible, one after another of those testifying spoke to the need for public education on methods to avoid spreading the ants’ range.

Doug Cohn, a property manager who works on controlling ants, said that when an area is infested, there can be as many as 95 million ants per acre, and, when treetops become infested, the only way to control is with chainsaws, a bulldozer, and burning.

Many witnesses said the council should seek action from the state noting that coqui continue to be found on plants imported from Puerto Rico. One pointed out that although the Legislature had approved a cargo inspection fee to beef up inspections on incoming goods, the Lingle administration had yet to implement that law. (Environment Hawai`i reported on this in the September 2008 issue.) The council committee approved the measure on a vote of 8-0.

The state Department of Agriculture has prepared an information sheet on the LFA: [url=][/url]

Missing Mail: As longtime subscribers may know, each fall we send out our annual fundraising appeal. This year, the mail was dropped off at the main post office in Honolulu in mid-October, and, as usually occurs, we began receiving responses almost immediately. (Thank you very much.)

But we soon noticed something very wrong. No responses were coming from the Big Island or from Maui, even though people on O`ahu, Kaua`i, and the continental United States had obviously received the mailers and were sending them back to us.

For those of you who have not received the notice of our annual appeal, we would ask that you please consider us for a year-end tax-deductible gift all the same. Your gift will mean all the more now, as it will count toward our fund-raising target of $15,000 to qualify for a matching grant from the Bill Healy Foundation.

Towers of Death: According to the American Bird Conservancy, the Federal Communications Commission has failed to initiate consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for communication tower projects in Hawai`i, despite the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2004 that towers here would likely cause harm to the threatened Newell’s Shearwater, the endangered Hawaiian goose (nene), the band-rumped storm petrel (`ake`ake), and the endangered Hawaiian petrel (`ua`u).

The group says that the FWS found that communication towers and their support wires disrupt nocturnal migration patterns and cause collisions with the rare birds. ABC noted that the service repeated its request for consultation in a letter to the FCC dated September 15, 2008, stating: “In accordance with section 7 of the ESA, we recommend the FCC work in good faith with the Service and the communications industry in Hawai`i to develop a project description for a programmatic consultation for existing and future towers in Hawai`i.”

A month later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the Conservation Council for Hawai`i, the Forest Conservation Council, and ABC against the FCC for failing to protect the Hawaiian petrel and Newell’s shearwater from fatal collisions at seven large communication towers on Kaua`i and the Big Island. The court affirmed U.S. District Judge David Ezra’s dismissal of the case because the groups, which have been seeking greater FCC protection for the birds since 2004, lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.

Volume 18, Number 10 April 2008

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