Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Big Island ban on aerial hunting violates federal order, state says

By Associated Press


HILO >> State natural resources officials are asking a federal judge to overturn a Hawaii County ban on aerial hunting, at least when it is conducted by the state or its contractors.

At issue is a 2012 ordinance passed after overwhelming community support to ban hunting from helicopters and airplanes, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources contends that federal orders in 1979 and 1987 and a stipulated agreement between the state and environmentalists in 1998 pre-empt the county law.

Those orders gave the court jurisdiction over critical habitat on Mauna Kea for palila, an endangered native bird found only on certain areas of Mauna Kea.

The federal court had ordered two aerial hunts of feral sheep and goats to protect the habitat.

The next hunt is scheduled for sometime in the last two weeks of April, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Administrator Roger Imoto said in a declaration filed with the court in early March.

“There is a direct conflict between the 1998 federal court order requiring the state to conduct aerial eradication efforts on a semiannual basis and the county’s ordinance prohibiting aerial eradication within the county limits,” deputy state Attorney General Michael Q.Y. Lau said in a court motion. “The ban directly interferes with the federal court’s order requiring the state to conduct aerial eradication operations within the palila’s critical habitat.”

The motion asks the court to declare that the county law violates a federal court order and is pre-empted under federal law.

The state wants to stop the county from prosecuting anyone who participates in the state’s eradication efforts. The state motion states there is no penalty provision in the ordinance, but violators could be subject to fines up to $100 and to 90 days of jail time for each offense.

County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said the motion and the county’s response are scheduled to be heard April 8.

In the county’s response to the state, Ashida noted the stipulated agreement also required the state to “implement a program of public involvement.” Ashida said that has never been done.

“After ignoring the concerns of the individuals most directly affected by aerial hunting, the state now attempts to scold the County Council for enacting an ordinance which urges the state to do what it was required to do for the last 15 years, i.e. consider the public in its decision-making and actions,” Ashida wrote in the county’s response, which was filed Monday.

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