Ring the bell!!! The Environmental Court is headed to conference committee. Woot, woot! This is the farthest this bill has ever gotten in the legislative process.
Mahalo to the members of the Senate and House Committees on the Environment and Judiciary and the House Finance Committee for shuttling this bill through the legislative process in an efficient and transparent way. We are so close to passing this bill.
But there is still much to do to ensure this bill gets to the Governor's desk. Some business trade groups strongly oppose the bill on the misguided theory that establishing an Environmental Court would be bad for business. Quite the opposite!
Establishing this court will help to further ensure that those businesses who pride themselves on environmentally-friendly operations are competing on a fair playing field against those businesses that have, up till now, simply incorporated harm to the environment as a cost of doing business.
This bill is important because it will establish a fairer and more efficient process for adjudicating violations of the protections established for our forests, oceans, wildlife, and public health. For all of the illegal dumpsites and abandoned vehicles, all of the fishing and hunting violations, for all the spills into our oceans and streams: the environment deserves its day in court.
The environmental court would function much like drug court, where cases concerning laws to protect our environment will be heard together on one docket by a judge focused on this area of law. With this focus comes more consistent outcomes. And with more consistent decisions comes more consistent enforcement and compliance. Residents, visitors, and businesses will know that Hawaii’s environmental protections are not just talk, but are truly and regularly enforced.
Now is the time to make sure all of our elected officials in the State Capitol understand the importance of this bill. Please take a moment to contact the Representatives and Senators in your area. Here is a link to a list of all Hawaii's state elected officials and their contact information. When you visit this link, input your zip code in the upper right-hand corner to find out which elected officials represent you.
The Circle’s newest branch -- Manoa Outdoor Circle -- is supporting Malama Manoa’s regular tree giveaway at the Manoa District Park on Sunday, April 6th, 8 AM - Noon. The featured tree this year is the Hong Kong Orchid.
Let’s welcome the Manoa branch to the Circle right by helping them out with 10 volunteers at their first event. The giveaway runs from 8 am - 12-noon at the Manoa Valley Park Pavilion; volunteers are needed from 7 am - 2 pm. Show our newest branch the love by coming out to support them! Contact the Circle office at 593-0300 to let us know you can be there. Mahalo!!
Our Leaf touches ground this week with lots of news about branch engagement and statewide public affairs. I am very happy to report that the Exceptional Tree Initiative is being championed by Susan Spangler, appointed representative to the Mayor’s Arborist Advisory Council.
Things have been busy for our volunteers this first half of the legislative session. With “cross-over” completed earlier this month, we now know which bills have a good chance of making it to “conference committee” at the end of the legislative session. It is exciting to see some of the Senators and Representatives championing the environment with such knowledge and inspiration. This is a challenging time as we all reckon with the cost of development to our ecosystem. It is extremely hopeful to hear these leaders talking about carrying capacity on our islands, particularly on O’ahu.
We have a strong leader in our Honolulu City Council, who sees the danger in proliferation of advertising on our roadways. Moving ads on busses is proven to be a distraction to drivers, not to mention to the visual plane. It can’t be said too often: “Our beauty is the hand that feeds us.” A beautiful, calming viewscape is an intrinsic part of the much revered aloha spirit.
We hope that all of our Mayors will follow Mayor Caldwell in making our county parks a priority over the next few years. This is news The Outdoor Circle likes to move with!
We ask you to join us in being an active steward for The Outdoor Circle. Here's what you can ask of your friends and neighbors: Become a member (click here), volunteer some time (click here), and regularly visit our website and facebook page to catch up on our activities.
One of the first memorial trees Waimea Outdoor Circle volunteers planted in the Waimea Nature Park was to Christine Snyder, The Outdoor Circle's arborist that was killed in the plane on September 11th in Pennsylvania.
Waimea branch members recently replaced the fading plaque with this new and larger one, which can be found at the base of a large Koai'a tree on the meadow, near the concrete bench. Members place an American flag and flowers there every September 11th and 4th of July.
For almost 15 years, Waimea branch members have volunteered their time to maintain this 10-acre public, botanical park in the heart of Waimea Town. Click here to learn more about the "Ulu La'au Nature Park."
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell finally named the appointees to Honolulu’s Arborist Committee, which includes our very own Susan Spangler, president of the East Honolulu Outdoor Circle (center right in green and white dress). Congratulations to all the appointees!!
“We are delighted to have the honor to serve the City in this capacity,” said Susan Spangler. “Honolulu’s Exceptional Trees need our attention, if they are going to endure well into the next generation.”
This is a major first step in The Outdoor Circle’s Exceptional Tree Initiative, our new program to ensure Hawaii’s public greenspaces — and especially their Exceptional Trees — are well-maintained.
Arborist Committees are established by state law to implement the Exceptional Tree Act of 1976 at the county level. In each county, this committee is responsible for addressing tree-related issues, including the identification of new candidates for “Exceptional Tree” status. Honolulu County has been without an Arborist Committee since Mayor Caldwell took office in 2012.
Recently, we reported that members on Oahu are using "See, Click, Fix" -- a new app on their smartphones -- to report illegal billboards to Honolulu's enforcement division. And now we are seeing results! Here is the follow up from the first enforcement action taken through the "See, Click, Fix" App.
From the inspector's report:
"Inspection on 3/10/14 revealed the correct address of the complaint is 1357 South Beretania Street. The inspection on that date revealed the following:
- Mark Glen's Action (Gold) - There is a non-permitted sign (a banner). Pending.
Reinspection on 3/17/14 revealed the banner sign (Cash For Gold) has been removed at the above-referenced property."
Yay! It worked. The key here is patience. Like most counties in Hawaii, Honolulu's code enforcement division is woefully understaffed. It takes months for complaints to be inspected and notices of violations to be sent to property owners. We are heartened, however, to learn that two new enforcement officers were recently added to the staff at Honolulu's DPP Customer Service Division. These new officers combined with this more convenient method of reporting possible violations, we hope to stem the proliferation of illegal outdoor signage in Honolulu.
To download the app onto your smartphone, click here. You can make anonymous reports of billboard violations -- but be sure to mention you are working with The Outdoor Circle!
A special thanks to the members of the North Shore branch for taking the lead on enforcing our sign laws on Oahu.
The Outdoor Circle has been keeping Hawai`i clean, green, and beautiful for over 100 years. Here are some of our early years. Our albums are stored at the State Archives next to `Iolani Palace. It's best to call and make an appointment. Click here for more information on the state archives.
The beloved International Marketplace is undergoing a major renovation. Thankfully, the owners, Queen Emma Land Company, recognize the value of the amazing trees on their property and are making heroic efforts to preserve and enhance the trees there. The Exceptional Banyan Tree closer to Kalakaua Avenue is being preserved -- and the human experience of this tree will actually be enhanced by a design that puts the pedestrian and dining area on the 3rd floor, around the canopy of this epic tree. In addition, several other trees are being protected-in-place or relocated on the property.
Unfortunately, however, two large trees will be lost. One of the other banyan trees on the property has fallen victim to the ferocious stem gall wasp. Despite every effort to protect certain banyan trees from this infection, nothing has been able to save infected trees from dying. In consultation with expert arborists, the developers have decided to remove this tree and repurpose it to the extent possible. This tree will be replaced with a mature monkeypod from on-site that was previously slated for removal.
In addition, the large monkeypod on the Kuhio Avenue side of the International Marketplace will be removed and repurposed. Though the developers had originally planned to relocate this tree, realities of the tree’s root system and underground utilities have rendered that option impossible. The loss of this large canopy tree on Kuhio Avenue will be very noticeable. After consulting with The Outdoor Circle and others, the developers are investigating possibilities for compensating for the loss of shade and overall character that will come with the loss of this tree. Stay tuned for more updates to the developer’s plans for the new International Marketplace as they become available.
You can learn more about this project by visiting their website: http://shopinternationalmarketplace.com
The 9th Circuit ruled on February 18, 2014 that the EIS for the Honolulu Rail Project is not incomplete, despite the lack of equally in-depth analysis of alternatives to the elevated train, including Bus Rapid Transit. Judge Tashima, at the lower federal court, also determined that the City and the Federal Transit Authority properly analyzed the alternative routes for the rail system, including whether to locate a tunnel under Beretania Street.
In light of the courts’ decisions, we are assessing the next best steps. We need to continue to engage with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) to ensure that all of the mitigations promised in the EIS are actually implemented -- that trees affected by the rail project are relocated or re-purposed and replaced, that transit stations are well-designed and landscaped to integrate into their surrounding communities.
If you are interested in helping to minimize the negative impacts of rail, please drop us a line to volunteer.
Learn more about this issue, here is a link to the Star-Advertiser news article.
(Image: From the Star Advertiser, Gordon Pang)
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.