By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii County Council has a message for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources: Stop shooting our animals from helicopters.
The council voted 9-0 after listening to hours of testimony, mostly in favor, to outlaw “the eradication of any animal for any reason while being transported by helicopter, airplane or other similar means.”
“We here in Hawaii County are going to say that enough is enough,” said Council Chairman Dominic Yagong. “We’re not going to continue this in Hawaii County.”
The bill goes to Mayor Billy Kenoi for his approval or veto. But the ability of the county to enforce a ban on a federal mandate being carried out by a state agency appears low at best. Still, council members felt it was necessary to send a strong message to other government jurisdictions.
Although the vote was unanimous, Councilwoman Brittany Smart voted “kanalua” twice, which is an “aye” vote with reservations, because of her opposition to the process the council used to pass the legislation.
Councilwoman Brenda Ford spoke out forcefully against the aerial population control by DLNR, referring to a recent “cattle slaughter” in North Kona.
“It was a heinous crime,” she said.
Cory Harden of the Sierra Club differed from the council when she argued that aerial shooting should remain as an option to control feral ungulates, including pigs, goats, cattle and deer. However, she qualified that the shooting should be done effectively, only when necessary, as humanely as possible, and in a way that avoids impacts to other animals.
“We need the option of aerial shooting to protect native forests, wild and domestic animals, and people,” she said.
The County Council also voted 9-0 in favor of placing on the ballot a charter amendment creating a Game Management Advisory Commission. This was the second of three required readings; at least six votes are needed at a future council meeting to send it to voters in November. Councilman Fred Blas voted “kanalua” twice on the bill.
This bill also received heavy support from among the dozens of testifiers who spoke on hunting and geothermal issues. In response to concerns that the commission might be stacked with non-hunters, Ford said that scientific advisers would have their place with DLNR.
“It (the commission) is going to have hunters, fishers and gatherers,” Ford said, although that would be up to the mayor to appoint such people to the commission, subject to confirmation from the council.
“Our hunters have been left out of the process,” Ford said. “I believe in hunting, and I believe the hunters know more about hunting than anybody else.”
Both hunting measures are intended to assert more local control over what has traditionally been seen as a state issue.
Email Peter Sur at email@example.com.