The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says it expects to hire two more employees at Kaena Point State Park Reserve to better protect nesting albatrosses that were attacked last year and help curtail other violations.
But the employees will not have law enforcement powers. Instead they will include an education outreach specialist and the specialist’s assistant.
Last December, people entered the wildlife refuge and tortured and killed 17 Laysan albatrosses while also smashing eggs and destroying nests. No one has been arrested, even though suspects have long been known to authorities.
“For obvious reasons the department can’t comment on specific security enhancements that may be made at Kaena Point State Park Reserve, as that could defeat the purpose of said additions,” DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison wrote in an email.
Dennison says the two employees will work ina newfield office that the DLNR is constructingat the end of the paved road near the entrance of the Mokuleia side of Kaena Point.
They will be charged with increasing awareness of the valuable wildlife and plants at Kaena Point and the area’s rich cultural and historical resources, he says, adding their presence “will hopefully result in a voluntary reduction in inappropriate or illegal use of the area.”
Mokuleia resident Stephen Wojtowicz says he goes to Kaena Point every day and is discouraged by the degradation of the park.
“Iam hoping the employees will help curb the illegal activities in the park now, especially nighttime drinking and bonfires and vehicles creating huge holes in the landscape when the drivers go off the designated roads to mud bog,” Wojtowicz says.
The new employees will be unable to force violators to stop illegal activities, but instead will have to call the Honolulu Police Department or an officer from the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.
North Shore state Sen. Gil Riviere says there are too few DOCARE officers to adequately protect the North Shore’s abundant wildlife, including the albatrosses and monk seals at Kaena Point.
More than 5,000 people have state permits to drive their vehicles on the unimproved roads leading into Kaena Point State Park. Dennison says some of them regularly break rules by going off the roads they are permitted to use in the park.
And each year, hundreds of tourists and Hawaii residents hike in the area.
“There are not enough regular patrols by park enforcement officers to monitor all this activity, “ says Riviere.
At the next legislative session, he is planning to submit a new version of a bill that failed this year calling for five additional DOCARE officersand for more patrols by the officers at Kaena Point and other important wildlife areas.
DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward says the department has only four officers and a supervisor for the entire North Shore.
“That is not enough to go after people who damage protected landscapes and kill wildlife. It is such a large area,” says Riviere.
There has never been a full-time DOCARE officer assigned specifically to Kaena Point.
Meanwhile, Riviere says he is disappointed that nobody has been charged yet in the Kaena albatross massacre.
“It was such an outrageous crime. It is very concerning that the prosecutor has not moved more quickly to go after the suspects,” he says.
Riviere says the only good to come out of the albatross case is increased awareness of the need for more law enforcement protection at Kaena Point and other areas. He hopes that will helphis chances of getting money next year for additional officers.
The DLNR’s new field office at Kaena Point will consist of two 20-foot shipping containers on a gravel bed. One container will serve as an office and the other will be used for storage.Eventually a roof will be built between the two containers to create a covered work space. There will be a security fence and a gate around the new office complex.
The Division of State Parks is paying for the structures and the two employees with $178,000 from transient accommodations tax revenue.
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.