Suzanne Case Appointed to DLNR
We are so pleased that Governor Ige has chosen Suzanne Case to head up the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The Senate Confirmation Committee voted unanimously to support her nomination. Now it is up to the Senate to vote on her nomination. The Outdoor Circle strongly endorses Ms. Case as she has the experience, expertise, and holistic approach necessary to lead this crucial department.
This nomination is notable because it is so significantly different from the Governor’s previous choice for the job; a choice that he withdrew after considerable public opposition based on the nominee’s lack of familiarity and experience with the Department, and appreciation for the importance of protecting our natural resources. Ms. Case’s nomination is a testament to what can be accomplished when the public actively engages with lawmakers to set the direction of public policy. Now we have a nominated that is clearly qualified for the position with the proper experience in managing natural resources and large organizations.
Ms. Case is currently the Director of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii. In that position, Ms. Case manages 53,000 acres of preservation land with a budget of $11 million and a staff of 76. people. During her tenure, she oversaw the largest conservation land transaction in state history for 117,00 acres at Kahuku Ranch on Hawaii Island. She has extensive experience in natural resources management and advocacy, as well as partnering with public and private landowners towards shared resource management goals.
In 2014, Ms. Case received the prestigious Ho‘okele Award for her leadership, strategic thinking, and ability to bring different groups of people together towards common goals.
Ms. Case is clearly qualified to serve as Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. She will be an excellent addition to the Governor’s cabinet.
Also interesting to read is Sen. Laura Thielen’s post on the importance of the DLNR Appointment.
Honolulu Community College (HCC) is home is to an epic true banyan tree with a storied history intertwined with TOC and the urban growth of Honolulu. If you haven't seen it, take a minute to swing by Kokea Street to take note.
HCC is preparing to build a new structure on campus in what is currently a tree-filled parking lot. The Outdoor Circle consulted with the Administration on the project proposal and this what we learned:
We strongly urged HCC’s Administration to find a way to keep the banyan tree and build their ATTC building. Current plans call for the building to be next to the banyan tree. Because banyans have aerial roots, it is possible to trim the banyan and train it to grow into the courtyard and away from the new structure.
This banyan has storied roots. It is the last known survivor of six cuttings taken from the banyan tree that once stood at King and Keeaumoku Streets. The Outdoor Circle fought long and hard to save that 100-year-old banyan tree from the widening of King Street. After a year-long effort, the wider road won and the tree was unfortunately removed. Before it died, however, six pieces were carefully cultivated and re-planted around Oahu in 1968. The only cutting known to have survived is this tree in the parking lot of Honolulu Community College.
This historic tree provides extremely valuable environmental services (for free), including sequestering carbon, capturing stormwater, and providing shade that reduces energy costs.
It would be a shame to lose such a value member of our urban forest, especially in these days of increasingly hot days in the city. If anyone is interested in helping to see how to save this tree and build the new ATTC structure at HCC, please click here to send us a note.
Historic bridges along Hana Highway are getting a structural make-over that is expected to take 50 years to complete. The painstaking process of dismantling the bridges and re-constructing them will result in stronger, safer bridges while preserving the historic feel of the area and the bridges themselves.
Unfortunately, this process will also have a dramatic impact on the trees along this historic highway.
The Chair of TOC’s tree committee is consulting with the project manager, Fung Associates, to ensure that every possible protective measure is taken to keep trees in the ground. As well as to ensure that where tree removals are necessary, replacement trees are planted when construction is complete.
TOC consults with Samkoo on new condo
Kapi‘olani Boulevard is expecting a new building this summer. Korean condo developer, Samkoo, is constructing a 45-story condo to provide affordable housing in downtown Honolulu. Mahalo to Board member, Steve Mechler, for meeting with developers, architect and landscape architect on March 20th to go over their plans for landscaping and area trees.
A representative of the project said that this is Samkoo’s first building in Hawaii and they wanted to be sure to make a good first impression.
The building will provide all affordable housing (1-3 bedrooms) and is designed within the existing zoning limitations. Their proposal calls for widening the public sidewalk and enlarging the planting wells for street trees. This is good because the current planting wells are too narrow, forcing tree roots to bunch up in the planting space and push up surrounding concrete. In the process of constructing the building, two monkeypod trees will be removed. These trees have been hit by cars and restricted by the small planting space, so they are not in good condition. When construction is complete, Samkoo will install two new comparable monkeypod trees nearby -- one immediately across the street and the other in place of the current driveway. They expect to breakdown this summer.
Mahalo Piha Noelani!
For ten solid years The Outdoor Circle was blessed to have the skilled support of Noelani Sugata. She worked her way up from Administrative Assistant to Operations Manager and learned every facet of the organization in the process. If you ever called The Outdoor Circle, then you have spoken with Noe. But she did so much more than answer the phones. She:
Yep, it’s true, she is amazing. She is a real trooper with a beautiful smile and great sense of humor.
Yet, as with all the good things, the time has come for Noe to seek out new adventures in faraway lands. Please join me in thanking Noe for all she has done for the Circle and wishing her all the best on her future endeavors. Noe: send us postcards!
Ala Moana Park Reno Update
Mayor Caldwell is proposing a major, multi-year renovation of Ala Moana Park. He is seeking public input on how to improve Hawaii’s “People’s Park” through an online survey website:
Please jump in and get involved!
At the first public meeting on the idea of renovating Ala Moana Park, the Mayor said all options are on the table and that he is open to any and all ideas. That could be a good thing, it could also be a bad thing -- all depends on which ideas are floated. That is why The Outdoor Circle along with many other concerned organizations and residents are keeping a watchful eye on this process. We could use your help to make sure no important details are missed.
The Mayor did announce that the park will pilot a new form of public restroom and repave the running track around the park.
Some of the ideas and concerns already raised at the public meeting and online include:
More to come in the next few weeks! Please contact us here if you are interested in being more involved in this public consultation process.
Balfour Bad Choice for Water Commission
The Outdoor Circle joined with many environmental groups, including Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, the Sierra Club, and Conservation Council for Hawaii, to oppose the nomination of William Balfour to the Water Commission. Senators took testimony and asked pressing questions of the nominee at the confirmation hearing on Wednesday, and even continued the hearing on Friday. All senators will be asked to vote on this confirmation in the next few days.
For now, here is a report back on day one of the hearing from Conservation Council’s own, Marjorie Ziegler:
William Balfour’s response to questions by the Senate Water and Land Committee <on Wednesday> at his confirmation hearing was disappointing to put it mildly. It is very hard for me to believe the Governor nominated Mr. Balfour to serve yet another term on the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM). Mr. Balfour did not know about the hierarchy of water uses or constitutionally protected rights and uses under the State Water Code, nor was he concerned that he did not know about this most important tenet of the code.
What it means to ground-truth a tree
By Myles Ritchie
“What is ground-truthing? The easiest response is that ground-truthing is physically going to the desired object (in this case an Exceptional Tree) and obtaining the data in person that confirms previously collected data, or generates primary data that has never been collected for the specific target.
The Outdoor Circle began its initial tree mapping process with two graduate students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Nate and Spencer. The two of them worked together to complete Phase One of the project, which involved inputting previously collected data about Hawaii's Exceptional Trees into an open-source program called “Google Fusion”.
Phase Two, which we are currently in, involves verifying or "ground trotting" all of the data inputted during Phase One. Much of the data is outdated. The Exceptional Tree Act was enacted in 1975 and counties have had varying success maintaining their paper records of protected trees. The results have been typical of what is to be expected with data collected long ago: removed/dead trees, inaccurate coordinates, etc.. This just further demonstrates the importance of the ground-truthing process is when it comes to generating an accurate map for the public to use.
Ground-truthing requires a GPS unit, a tree-height finder, and an industrial tape measure to get the circumference of the tree. It is faster to ground-truth trees with another person and it provides a second opinion. A second opinion is important when assessing the condition of a tree, and deciding which new trees should be potential nominees. Also, the average park-goer might be curious and want to ask questions. By having a second person, the ground-truthing tasks can still be carried-out by one individual (although slower), while the other does the equally important task of educating the public on our goals for this project. As a side-note, by having two or more individuals mapping, it also makes the process safer and a lot more fun!
On March 4, I (along with three other incredible OC members) went to Hawaii Island to collect data for the map, and I am proud to say that Phase Two for the entire island was completed. Furthermore, I would like to say mahalo to our #GIVINGTUESDAY donors. Your donations helped pay for an experience that I will use in my future career as an environmental impact researcher, which will involve documenting and mapping the various ways humans impact the environment. From this, the goal of implementing positive changes to current policies and practices regarding environmental conservation is something I am extremely passionate about and look forward to accomplishing.
About the Author:
Myles serves as Programs Intern for The Outdoor Circle. He received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geography along with minor degrees in geology/geophysics and history. He is studying for his master's degree at UH-Manoa in Geography. He is from Toronto, Canada.
President's Message April 2015
You are going to learn a lot about us in this issue of our GreenLeaf!
Our tree preservation efforts and planting projects have kept the branches busy, and the advocating for open space protection, clean and green parks and public spaces, and signs concerns have kept our office busy. It continues to amaze me how our Executive Director Marti Townsend orchestrates the many functions that create the strong canopy of The Outdoor Circle, state-wide!
We share a collective mahalo to Noelani Sugata for her decade of service to our office. We welcome in our new office staffer Renee Nakagawa. We also bid a fond aloha to Gloria Taaffe, our tree mapping intern who will be leaving next month to finish her schooling from Florida. We are especially pleased that intern Myles Ritchie is going to stay on as Project Intern to help us finish our statewide tree mapping project. We are learning so much about the importance of the Exceptional Trees all throughout our beautiful islands.
We are looking forward to honoring Beatrice Krauss, Hawai'i's most beloved ethnobotanist, this Earth Day, April 22. Her legacy of ethnobotanical knowledge and public service lives on through her publications, course materials, plant collections and gardens, like the one at Lyon Arboretum. Bea enriched the lives of thousands of students, colleagues, friends and community groups by her teaching and spirit of aloha.
This is another in our series of micro-fundraiser Garden Tours. If you have a garden or know of one that can be the site for a Micro-fundraiser Garden tour, please let me know. It is a great way to discover more about the flora of O'ahu, meet new friends, and help support our efforts at keeping Hawai'i clean, green, and beautiful. Each tour is different but they are under 30 people, and sell out right away. Would you like to help us with a special Garden Tour in your neighborhood? We would love to hear from you!
I am so grateful to have such a hard working Board of Directors, who volunteer their expertise to best serve our nine Branches and the mission that has guided TOC for over one hundred years. I hope you will join us, reaffirm your membership, and consider volunteering through one of our Branches.
Today was the culmination of a grueling public process -- grueling for the nominee, the Ige Administration, the Senate, and for us, the public. The Senate convened at 11:30 AM to vote on whether to confirm the nomination of Carleton Ching. By all accounts, the vote was too close to call at the knock of the gavel. Every seat in the Gallery of the Senate Chambers was filled. Those concerned about this nomination sat in silent vigil over the Senate, wearing red as a demonstration of strength. We settled in for a long afternoon of speeches and vote-taking. Yet, after an extended recess, before any votes could be cast, a typed letter was delivered from the Governor to the Senate President officially withdrawing the nomination from the Senate’s consideration.
This entire confirmation process demonstrated that when the people of Hawaii engage, our voices are heard. Our participation in this process resulted in a better future for our natural and cultural resources and our democratic process. Thank you to everyone who showed up -- your testimony, phone calls, and emails all made the difference in this turn of events.
We know that Governor Ige is doing what he thinks is best for Hawaii. There are times when friends disagree. The time has come now for us to move on from our disagreement to the business of caring for our natural resources. We hope that one result of this confirmation process is improved collaboration between advocates for the environment and the Ige Administration. We look forward to helping Governor Ige develop an inclusive process for identifying new candidates for DLNR Director.
Here is the link from The Star Advertiser 3/19/2015
Exceptional Tree Mapping Project
by Myles Ritchie, Graduate Intern
Natural, beautiful and majestic: these are the characteristics defining the many varieties of Exceptional Trees throughout Hawai`i. From koa to monkeypod, this state is fortunate to have trees that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but extremely beneficial to society.
Knowing the location and physical characteristics of the various exceptional trees across the state is crucial to documenting and understanding the benefits of protecting our urban trees. In response to this need, The Outdoor Circle has begun a statewide Exceptional Tree Mapping (ETM) project which aims to do just this with the hopes of maintaining and increasing the beauty of Hawaii.
Benefits of Exceptional Trees
In an ever-increasing urbanized environment, the need for trees (especially exceptional ones), has never been more apparent. In such urban areas, trees can help offset the heat island effect by reducing the average air temperature under a tree’s canopy by 5-10°F and the surface temperature of a paved road by 35°F. Furthermore, these trees are able to not only remove increasing levels of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and replace it with oxygen, but also other harmful pollutants such as: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Trees are also able to prevent stormwater runoff, which is a significant vector for pollutants in streams and nearshore waters. Reducing stormwater runoff occurs as a result of the increase in available permeable surfaces that trees provide when compared to alternatives such as paved roads. The roots of trees also hold valuable topsoil in place, which is essential to the tree’s survival, along with the ability to facilitate future growth of vegetation in the area.
Aside from the benefits trees provide for the environment, they are also helpful when it comes to the mental and physical well-being of humans. Countless studies have shown that surrounding oneself with trees and other natural settings improvements: cognitive function, learning capabilities (especially in children) and memory skills. These studies have also shown that exposure to natural environments reduces stress levels and reduces depression symptoms as effectively as anti-depressants. Most interestingly, studies show that having access to this natural resource helps to facilitate community interaction and involvement.
The Exceptional Tree Act
Established in 1975 with the help of The Outdoor Circle, the Exceptional Tree Act designates an exceptional tree as “a tree, stand or grove of trees with historic or cultural value, or that by reason of age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality or endemic status, designated by a county arborist advisory committee as worthy of preservation”. Currently there are over 1000 exceptional trees throughout the Hawaiian Islands; with more about to be added to the registry when Bill 84 adopted by the Honolulu City Council. While the majority of these trees reside on Oahu (926), each of the other major islands also hosts many exceptional trees. Though large, this number does not reflect the many trees in Hawaii that are worthy of exceptional tree status. It is critical to add new exceptional trees to the list through the nomination process.
The nomination process for exceptional trees is a fairly easy process to complete and offers incentives for homeowners wishing to nominate a tree on their property. The first step is for landowners to fill out a tree nomination form. Then, a certified city arborist assesses the tree and the Arborist Committee makes a recommendation to the County Council on whether to recognize the tree. Once approved by County Council, a tree owner can receive a tax break of up to $3,000 every three years. Additional information about the nomination process, as well as county nomination forms are available at this link.
The Exceptional Tree Mapping Project
In response to the need for an interactive map that can be easily accessed by the general public, as well as a database consisting of useful information related to the state’s exceptional trees, The Outdoor Circle has begun its Exceptional Tree Mapping project. Over the next several months, each tree will be verified and data from each tree will be gathered. This process involves physically visiting each registered tree and obtaining various characteristics including: geographic coordinates, height, circumference, condition and any other notable facts when available (year planted, who planted it, etc…). This data is complied into our open-source ETM database. Click here to see the map and learn more about our process.
We need your help
The Outdoor Circle is looking for community support to gather data about these exceptional trees. For those wishing to volunteer, click here, which includes a PDF of how to obtain data in the field, as well as a FAQ section.
The Outdoor Circle will be holding an Exceptional Tree Map volunteer training exercise on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 9 am outside of the Iolani Palace Band Stand. For those wishing to attend this exercise, please RSVP by emailing TreeMap@outdoorcircle.org and prepare to have an exciting couple hours learning about ground-truthing and other aspects of conducting fieldwork!
With the completion of the Exceptional Tree Map, The Outdoor Circle hopes to increase the number of nominations for exceptional trees, helping to preserve one of the state’s most valuable and beneficial natural resources. The Outdoor Circle hopes to not only provide a valuable resource to the general public who wish to learn more about exceptional trees, but also to identify areas in need of tree nominations. Public participation is essential for the long-term success of the Exceptional Tree Map project and hopefully this interactive map is the first step in obtaining this much desired long-term goal.
Save the Trees, Save the City
Culvert City in Los Angeles was featured in CityLab's article "You want your city to thrive? Look to its trees". It is a very informative, quick read that highlights the valuable information we can learn about our urban forests through the i-Tree program developed by the USDA. Check it out and find out the economy value of the trees in your yard and throughout your community.
The article also highlights the value of old-growth trees to the overall health of cities and the need to have an urban forest master plan to ensure our cities' forests thrive for future generations.
Of course, most interesting to us is what CityLab had to say about tree maps -- and it is all good:
"Mapping exercises are incredibly useful for urban forestry," says Pamela Palmer, a landscape architect and president of Artecho, the design firm that's working with Culver City on its plan. "They help us fine-tune which trees to plant where and identify areas where a change in planting strategy is needed." Herbertson adds that easy-to-read maps and charts generated from Culver City's tree inventory have been effective tools for generating public interest and feedback, and believes they'll encourage buy-in and approval from the city council.
And not to put too fine a point on it, they reminded us that:
Increasingly, cities have recognized that trees provide not only environmental benefits and curb appeal—they're also good for business.
DLNR needs your help! The Outdoor Circle and more than 20 other advocacy groups oppose the nomination of Carleton Ching as Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Hawai‘i’s natural resources are our most valuable asset, they deserve expert management.
The Senate Committee on Water and Land is accepting testimony from the public for a confirmation hearing on March 11, 2015 at 10AM in room 229 at the State Capitol.
Click here to get involved!
We recognize that some senators may find it difficult to oppose this nomination because they were once close colleagues with former-Senator, now-Governor Ige. That is why it is so important for each of us to get involved and help our Senators make the best decision for Hawai‘i’s people. You have likely seen the news articles and opinion pieces criticizing the nomination of Mr. Ching to lead Hawai‘i’s natural resource agency. We are very concerned that Mr. Ching lacks the familiarity with natural resources and commitment to conservation that is necessary to successfully lead DLNR.
DLNR’s mission is to:
“Enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of the people of Hawaii nei…”.
The department’s jurisdiction encompasses nearly 1.3 million acres of State lands, beaches, and coastal waters. It is responsible for all conservation districts, state parks, all historic resources, forests, all wildlife and their sanctuaries, hunting and game management, fishing, boating and other ocean programs, and natural area reserves. This department conducts high-end scientific research, spearheads public education campaigns, and implements tough resource management decisions all with the goal of ensuring the public’s interest in our common resources are protected.
The Director of DLNR chairs the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Commission on Water Resources Management, and is the chief historic preservation officer. The Director is responsible for ensuring DLNR follows all public hearing and disclosure requirements and satisfies all constitutional requirements under the public trust doctrine.
Chronic under-funding of this important department has led to long-term staff shortages. These shortages, along with systemic failures to follow basic legal requirements in past decisions, contributed to multiple, major lawsuits against the department costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Mr. Ching is the Wrong Choice
Mr. Ching has not dedicated his career to cultivating an expertise in natural resources management. Quite the opposite, he has spent his career developing Hawai‘i’s natural resources. On behalf of billionaire David Murdoch, Mr. Ching lobbied for wind farms on conservation land and 3,500 homes on 575 acres of highly productive farmland. In his free time, Mr. Ching leads the Land Use Research Foundation (LURF) -- he served as President in 2008 and Vice President in 2009 and 2010. This lobby group advocated to:
For a department already besieged by immense challenges, it is not wise to appoint a director who is not naturally in sync with the mission and responsibilities of the department.
Our concern over this appointment is focused on an objective assessment of the agency’s needs and the nominee’s record and does not call into question Mr. Ching’s integrity. Having talked story with Mr. Ching, we found him to be an extremely nice person. However, we know that being a nice guy has little to do with spearheading an agency fundamental to the health and wealth of our islands. This is why we are asking Senators to not confirm Mr. Ching’s nomination.
Ready to Collaborate
We look to the Governor’s Administration to re-think this appointment and re-double its efforts to seek out and seat top talent to lead Hawaii’s agencies. During the campaign, this Administration committed to fulfilling its obligations through collaboration. We, at TOC, 100% support the collaborative, proactive approach to problem-solving. We look forward to sitting down with the Administration as soon as possible to help find a suitable nominee for the Director of DLNR.
More about the Confirmation Process
The Senate Committee on Water and Land will accept public testimony on the nomination of Mr. Ching on March 11, 2015 starting at 10AM in room 229 at the State Capitol. Click here to find out about parking and transportation options to the Capitol.
You can submit your testimony to the Committee by clicking here or going directly to Hawaii State Legislature GM514 and sign-in to submit testimony online.
After hearing all the testimony, the Committee will vote whether to recommend Mr. Ching be confirmed as Director of DLNR. Then a vote of the entire Senate will be scheduled to consider the Committee’s recommendation and make a final determination. You are encouraged to directly contact your Senator to express your concern about appointing Mr. Ching to DLNR. (Find out who is your senator). Call your senator today!
Other things you can do right now
• Forward this information to your friends and family
• Send your testimony to all senators by clicking here
• Express your concern directly to Governor Ige by clicking here
• Join the discussion on social media: #saveDLNR
• Submit your testimony as a letter to editor to our local publications by emailing the following:
Pacific Business Journals
If you are interested in getting more involved, click here to contact TOC’s office staff and find out when we are meeting next to discuss this issue.
North Shore Branch February Newsletter
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.