As the Board of Land and Natural Resources conducted its business Thursday, an e-mail went out that showed sometimes, progress trumps politics.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources announced it will indeed hold a second series of public hearings on proposed amendments to the rules governing activities in some 2 million acres of protected land. Scheduling a road show to a half-dozen locations across the state is significant, if only because it shows the new administration has decided not to abandon the work of the old one.
Back in July, Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands Chief Sam Lemmo said he hoped to push through the rule changes — covering everything from mauka windmills to makai erosion control — while he had the support of his boss and the land board. Parts of the proposal have drawn fire from the community.
When asked why the rush, Lemmo said: “We have a chairperson and a board that is willing to do it. It’s tough to get big rule amendments through the administration process, as you might imagine. My boss and the board that we answer to have been very supportive in moving this effort along.”
A new administration would put new names and faces in important positions, and they may want to take “another eight-year look at this,” Lemmo said at the time.
Fast-forward six months, and there are indeed new leaders. Republican Gov. Linda Lingle was replaced by Democrat Neil Abercrombie. Former DLNR and BLNR chair Laura Thielen, who supported the amendments that loosened some regulations, was replaced by William Aila, a conservation-minded Native Hawaiian who some said was a radical appointment.
The second round of public hearings was approved by the board on Dec. 1 at Thielen’s last meeting, just days after Aila had been announced as the nominee and just days before Abercrombie was sworn in.
Rather than quashing the proposal, Aila is standing behind it. He told Civil Beat Thursday that the proposal was tweaked to take into account the outpouring of public input — some of it opposed to aspects. While he couldn’t yet throw his support behind every single line in the lengthy amendment text [pdf], Aila said he believes the majority of the changes are in the best interest of the state.
Lemmo told Civil Beat Thursday his division is “crippled” by the existing rules, and that he needs the changes to be able to function. He said he’s been working on the project for years, and that if the fixes aren’t made now, then maybe they’re never going to happen at all. But he said he’s optimistic that he’ll have Aila’s, and the board’s, support.
The scheduled public hearings are at 5:30 p.m. on the following days in the following locations:
Jan. 24, 2011 — Waiehu, Maui — Paukukalo Community Center, 657 Kaumualii St.
Jan. 25, 2011 — Hilo, Hawaii — Hawaii County Council Room, 25 Aupuni St.
Jan. 31, 2011 — Kaunakakai, Molokai — Mitchell Pauole Center, 90 Ainoa St.