Hunters speak up against DLNR
By Jason Smith
“We are losing our hunting areas,” says Harvey Chan, at an early morning roadside protest outside the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) in Hilo. “They fenced off Mauna Kea. They’ve been eradicating sheep there for thirty years and there’s hardly any sheep left. Now they’re gonna fence more area for the sake of supposedly preserving the environment.”
Chan, along with a crowd of hunters, is protesting against a government bill that is in the final stage of being pushed through the State Legislature. The House and Senate Bills, are called HB 2520 and SB 2782, respectively. The gist of this legislation is to protect thousands of acres of public watershed by putting a fence around it in the name of water sustainability and native species conservation. Enemy number one spotlighted in the Bill is alien species, especially wild pigs and goats. The near 19,000 acres of wet Koa, Ohi’a, and grassland forest reserve in question is called, Pu`u Maka`ala, located on the northeast flank of Mauna Loa.
Within these acres, the State has been systematically eradicating wild ungulates. These pigs and goats stand little chance to be used as a food source against the governmental-administered poisonings, snares, and hunts by helicopters, where the animals are shot from above and left to rot.
Chan further describes what is going on, “What you are seeing is a whole shift in our lifestyle. It’s bad enough that the private ownership fences out, you know within their rights, but this is public lands; it should be multi-use. Multi-use, meaning we can go in there, hunt, and we actually reduce the population of these animals: Now, you’re gonna hire somebody to go in there? That’s more taxpayers money, isn’t that right? More costs! We do it for free! As long as we can take the game, the meat, out.”
Standing in the crowd of hunters is John Griffiths. He asks the simplest question to the DLNR, “Why do you guys need to take more, when you cannot manage what you have already taken?”
The Bill is lofty in its preaching of sustainability, and Griffiths highlights the fact that about 90 percent of our food is shipped to the Big Island. “If you want Hawaii to be self sustainable, what is more self sustainable than our natural game resources? Once you diminish that, where do we go?”
Griffiths is deeply worried about what exists ahead, “In a future generation of the kids, they’ll have nothing left; there’s nothing left to take.” However, what will become of the island’s water supply for those generations if it is not closely protected? It is a simple fact that water is required for all living things. Needless to say, there is a delicate balance at play.
Senate Bill 2782 mentions Governor Neil Abercrombie’s plan, "A New Day in Hawaii,” and how it calls for, “the stewardship of the natural resources that our survival, economy, and quality of life depend on.” Such noble words are a sharp slap in the face to the very folks who feel they have been completely ignored in the Bill, yet who have historically been the very stewards of the land. In addition, no economic or any kind of social impact statement was ever conducted on how the fencing and eradication affects the local hunters and gatherers. How many thousands of people have been sustaining themselves on the resources in the Pu`u Maka`ala, and for how long? Our island hunters feel such questions have been almost totally ignored.
Like many of the old-timers at the protest, 68-year-old Patrick Pacheco has been hunting in the Pu`u Maka`ala since long before Hawaii became a State. He talks about how living on an island is like being fenced in already and increasing the actual fences is, “Squeezing us too much.” His years of wisdom reflect his immediate worry, “What’s gonna happen to people? People got to survive, they got to eat, the economy is bad, jobs are scarce.”
The Bill touting its support for “quality of life” completely leaves out people like Patrick Pacheco. He says, “This is our land. This is the way we believe in. This is our culture. This is our Resources. This is what we live on! We can share. We’re not greedy. We want to hunt, don’t eradicate. Don’t fence us out. What God gave us on the mountain is for everybody to use, yeah?”
Another hunter named Tony Sylvester says, “There is almost no public access left to Mauna Loa. There really isn’t any. Pu’u Maka’ala is the last parcel that is public access around Mauna Loa and the rest is owned by the National Parks, Bishop Estate, the military, and the Nature Conservancy; there is no public access. So once we lose this we will have no way of even walking up to Mauna Kea unless you go through the National Park system, or whatever; which, obviously you can’t bring guns or any of those kind of things; so, basically hunting is off limits to us on Mauna Loa.” Sylvester says the land that they are reduced to hunting is wasteland, all lava flow, where pigs can’t live or forage.
Sylvester notes one example of the hypocrisy, “If they want to conserve water, close down a golf course.”
For more information from a hunter’s perspective, contact Tony Sylvester at