Service Sued Over Kaua`i Listings: WildEarth Guardians is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its failure to place 48 species of plants and animals of Kaua`i on its endangered species list. According to the lawsuit, filed January 4 in Honolulu, the service missed a deadline of October 21 for the listing.
All 48 species – 45 plants, two birds, and a picture-wing fly – had been proposed for listing on October 21, 2008, under the Bush administration.
According to WildEarth Guardians, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar added just two species to the endangered list in 2009, matching “the all-time lows set under the Bush administration.” The group, headquartered in Santa Fe, noted that Salazar had dismissed concerns about the low rate in an interview given to the Associated Press on New Year’s Eve. Salazar told the AP that he does not consider important “the number counting of how many species have we listed and how many we have not.”
Local Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Foote said that the delay in the listing was merely the result of some last-minute hang-ups, and that formal listing was expected to be published in the Federal Register by the end of January. After a species is listed, the Fish and Wildlife Service must develop a recovery plan within five years.
False Killer Whales Get Respect: Similar litigation brought on behalf of the small population of false killer whales that inhabit waters close to the Main Hawaiian Islands has brought tangible results. Last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it was forming a Take Reduction Team to formulate ways to reduce the harm to the animals caused by the operations of longline fishing vessels.
Establishment of the team was the goal of the litigation filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Hui Malama I Kohola, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Turtle Island Restoration Network.
Belly Up in Waikoloa: What began with a bang has ended, three years later, with a whimper on the steps of the Hilo court house. In March 2007, a development company called Metric-Passco purchased about 45 acres of urban-zoned but undeveloped land in Waikoloa Village, on the Big Island, for nearly $20 million. The company prepared an environmental assessment for its project, which included a 200-room hotel, a business park with nearly an acre of office space, a shopping mall, 300 multifamily homes and 150 units for seniors.
Within months of the final EA being published, in January 2009, the developer was in default to its major creditor, the Building for America Fund III LLC, a Delaware company with offices in Glendale, California. The total amount of interest and principal owed on the note amounted to more than $15 million at the time the foreclosure suit was filed last June.
For several months, both parties were in talks to arrive at some agreement, and an initial foreclosure auction, set for December 9, was delayed so the talks could continue.
By January 7, it was all over. The property was auctioned on the court house steps, with BFAF III the sole bidder. If the court approves the sale, the creditor will take possession of the land for $10 million, or roughly half of the purchase price in 2007.
The Trashing of Important Ag Land: Land belonging to Alexander & Baldwin on Kaua`i was the first to be classified by the Land Use Commission as Important Agricultural Land under the provisions of a law passed in 2008 intended to protect and promote farming opportunities in the state. But no sooner was the designation of 3,773 acres in place last March than the County of Kaua`i pushed part of the acreage to the top of its list of preferred sites for a future landfill.
The site was selected by a 15-member advisory committee, which deliberated while the LUC process was ongoing. When the committee’s recommendation was announced last August, proposing to use 127 acres of the designated land near Kalaheo as the site of the county’s next landfill, the community rose up in anger.
Kaua`i Coffee Company, an A&B subsidiary that occupies the proposed landfill site and surrounding lands, has objected, saying that the landfill would harm its image and put its product at a competitive disadvantage. A&B spokesman Tom Shigemoto told the County Council in December that if the county wanted to take ownership of the land, it would have to be through unfriendly condemnation.
The next step for the county is preparation of an environmental impact statement. The county estimates that the existing landfill at Kalaheo will run out of room by 2017, at the latest. For a new site to be ready by that time, site selection should have been completed by the end of 2009, according to a timetable presented to the public by the county’s consultant, R.M. Towill.