Today the Sierra Club of Hawaii, the state’s largest environmental grassroots organization with over 12,000 members and supporters, praised the Hawaii State Legislature’s decision to repeal the Public Lands Development Corporation (PLDC). The House of Representatives voted to accept HB 1133 today, thus sending a bill repealing the PLDC to the Governor. The Governor previously indicated he would not oppose such a bill.
We did it!
Today, both the House and Senate took decisive steps that likely mean the end of the Public Lands Development Corporation. The House voted to move HB 1133 out of its final committee assignments. The Senate Water Land Committee gutted and replaced SB 707 with verbal amendments that appear to result in a clean repeal of the PLDC.
From Henry Curtis:
HONOLULU, HAWAII – Today the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club, the state’s largest environmental grassroots organization with over 12,000 members and supporters, unveiled a campaign to repeal the Public Lands Development Corporation (PLDC). Based on the concerns raised by thousands of worried residents, the Sierra Club is encouraging legislators to publicly commit to repealing the PLDC.
The PLDC was created by Act 55 in 2011, with the express purpose of developing public lands to generate additional revenue for the state. Countless individuals and organzations have expressed concern about the law’s no-bid contract provisions, the slant towards developing public resources instead of conservation, and the creation of a semi-autonomous agency exempted from routine oversight of state and county government. Many of the more controversial aspects of the law were added at the end of session with a two-hour hearing notice to the public (see this blog post for more information).
“The Sierra Club and its members have gone to great lengths to work with the PLDC, including proposing ways to reasonably improve the draft administrative rules,” said Robert D. Harris, Director of the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter. “These suggestions have largely been ignored. With the PLDC’s recent effortsto exclude the public from commenting and the adoption of a toothless strategic plan, it appears our only alternative is to push for a repeal of the PLDC.”
“We’re encouraging our members and supporters to reach out to candidates to express their concern about the PLDC,” said Harris. “We believe our legislators listen to the public. A large number of candidates are already publicly supporting a repeal of the PLDC ,” continued Harris. “This isn’t suprising. What is surprising is how few candidates are willing to publicly support the PLDC. Candidates are starting to see the beleagured PLDC as a sinking ship.”
The Sierra Club is going further and directly supporting candidates that have taken strong positions on the PLDC. In at least three races, the Sierra Club has issued districtwide mailers in an effort to educate the public about the issues. Tens of thousands of mailers about the PLDC issue have been sent in House District race 20 (see front and back), House District race 6 (front, back), and Senate District race 25 (front and back).
“The Sierra Club is proud to support candidates that are willing to draw the line on the PLDC,” said Harris. “As a watchdog environmental organization, it is our obligation to raise the public’s awareness about the implications of this law and notify the public about the candidates who support it.”
Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club
Founded in 1968, the Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club is the state’s largest and most active grassroots environmental organization. The Club actively promotes reducing the impacts of global climate change by encouraging the development of clean renewable energy, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and ensuring our fragile native habitat is protected from harm. www.sierraclubhawaii.org
Legacy Lands…Why Restrict Us?
The Legacy Lands fund — which allows the state to protect and acquire environmental, cultural, and agricultural important lands — is under attack. This posting is courtesy of Lea Hong from Trust for Public Land on SB2378SB 2378 Relating to Legacy Lands will be heard on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 2:45 p.m. before the Senate Agriculture and Senate Water, Land and Housing Committees.Please submit testimony in opposition to this bill. Talking points in opposition to SB 2378:1. Bill restricts applicants to the Legacy fund to only four state agencies – BLNR, the Dept. of Agriculture, the Agribusiness Development Corporation, and the Public Land Development Corporation. Under the current law, state and county agencies and non-profit land conservation organizations may apply. The four agencies granted exclusive rights to apply for funds can already apply under the existing law. Under the existing law, applicants must submit applications and compete with other applicants for funding. Only the best, most prepared/ready-to-go, and significant land projects get funded. Competition ensures good land conservation. These four agencies can already compete for funds, and will get funded if they submit good applications. BLNR has already been successful in applying for funds (e.g., Hamakua Marsh, Honouliuli Forest Reserve, Kainalu Ranch). There is no reason why the four agencies cannot compete well for funds.2. The Legacy Land law currently allows other state agencies, counties and non-profit land conservation organizations to apply for funding. The bill excludes these entities. Other state agencies like the Office of the Hawaiian Affairs, which has conserved Wao Kele O Puna, Waimea Valley, and Pahua Heiau, would be excluded from applying. Counties (which have used Legacy funding to expand Black Pot park in Hanalei on Kaua’i, and purchase coastal land along the Kohala and Ka’u coastlines on Hawai’i island) would also be excluded. Non-profit land conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, the Moloka’i Land Trust, and the North Shore Community Land Trust, would also be excluded. These non-profit land conservation organizations have used Legacy funding to protect important places such as Lapakahi State Historical Park on the Big Island, important agricultural land on Moloka’i, and are working on dedicating ag land at Turtle Bay and in Windward O’ahu to agriculture in perpetuity with the support of Legacy funds.3. By excluding non-profit land conservation organizations, counties, and other State agencies, the bill undermines the public-private partnerships that have made the Legacy Land law a success. For example, The Trust for Public Land partnered with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to apply for Legacy funding to purchase Honouliuli Forest Reserve, a watershed with dozens of endangered and threatened species, cultural sites, and important forest watershed that contributes to the Pearl Harbor aquifer. The Trust for Public Land was able to work with other private investors to purchase a larger acreage from the James Campbell Company (the company refused to sell smaller lots), subdivide out the forest reserve, secure private interim financing to purchase the land on to meet the landowner’s requirements, raise substantial federal funding (over $2 million), and transfer it to the State (with a 400K endowment for management at the HI Community Foundation). Without the help of private partners like the Trust for Public Land, the transaction could not have occurred.4. The bill also proposes to allow Legacy funds to be used for undefined “regulatory functions.” The existing law already allows up to 5% of the fund to be used for administrative expenses, up to 5% for maintenance, operations and managements of lands acquired with Legacy funds, invasive species control, and re-forestation and sediment control. Allowing undefined expenditures on “regulatory functions’ would allow more money to be siphoned away from the law’s primary mission — to conserve land.5. Senator Pohai Ryan has been working closely with the BLNR and Legacy Land Commission to promulgate rules and refine policies to improve Legacy land processes. That process should be allowed to continue — if substantial changes are made to the law, the rules would have to be amended and go out (yet again) for public hearing and AG review.