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Thursday, February 09, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023

Kapāpala Ranch, where raising cattle dates back to 1860, is one of the larger state owned pasturelands
where ranchers want oversight by state Department of Agriculture. Photo from Kap
āpala Ranch

TRANSFERRING STATE OWNED PASTURE LANDS from management by the state Department of Land & Natural Resources to the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture is an issue for new DLNR and HDOA department heads, and subject of legislation in the state House and Senate.
     Local lessees like ranching enterprises run by Kapāpala Ranch, Wally Andrade, Jerry Igami, Randy Cabral, Sonny Avenue, and Ernie Matos support transferring the leases to the Department of Agriculture, where they say there would be more empathy for their food production businesses.  
     Statewide about 100,000 acres of State of Hawai'i owned land are in cattle leases. The Department of Land & Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture sent out this joint statement this week saying that the recently appointed leadership teams under Gov. Josh Green for Department of Land & Natural Resources and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture are working to resolve a long-standing issue on the management of pasture lands.
State land leased for pasture on Hawai'i Island is in yellow. National Park land
is in purple, State Forestry & Wildlife land is in olive green, The Nature
Conservancy land in lavender. DLNR map
    DLNR leases or permits ranching across approximately 100,000 acres while also managing other uses on these lands including native forest protection and restoration, endangered species habitat, hunting, public trails, and customary and traditional gathering practices.
    One of the largest is Kapāpala in Kaʻū, where cattle ranching dates back to 1860.
    In 2003, the legislature passed Act 90, which established a process for determining whether certain lands could be transferred from DLNR jurisdiction to Dept. of Ag, based on a review by the boards of both departments.
    Since then nearly 40,000 acres, mostly plowed crop lands, and including some lands ranched by the Galimba family in Ka'u, have been transferred to HDOA and the State’s Agribusiness Development Corp. “We are referring to those completed transfers as Phase 1,” explained the recently appointed DLNR Chair Dawn Chang. “Now, we are ready to get to work on Phase 2 – farm and pasture lands that both departments see fit to transfer.”
    Recently appointed Dept. of Ag Chair Sharon Hurd said, “We thank legislators, as well as ranchers, for highlighting the importance of this issue. With the Green Administration’s leaders of both boards (Chang and Hurd also chair the Board of Land & Natural Resources-BLNR and the state Board of Agriculture), working together as a team, we have been meeting to find agreement and a plan for transfers, as well as a process for addressing multiuse areas,” Hurd added.
    The joint statement says that DLNR and HDOA made major progress by deciding that more than 50 leases and permits, representing more than 16,000 acres, have a mutual agreement to transfer to HDOA and will be put before the BLNR and BOA for approval.
    Another 70 leases and permits are also being offered for transfer by DLNR and are under review by
Kapāpala Ranch, managed by Lani Cran Petrie and Bill Petrie, recently received the
Excellence in Range Management Award. The historic ranch dates back to the 1860s.
Photo from Kapāpala Ranch
HDOA. “We look forward to making progress in transferring these Phase 2 parcels and will communicate with the legislature about the funding needed to conduct surveys and other due diligence necessary to finalize them transfers,” Hurd said.
“We have heard from many stakeholders including ranchers, trail users, conservationists, gatherers, and lawmakers,” Hurd continued. “This is a complex issue. A mandate to transfer all the lands to HDOA has unintended consequences for these stakeholders, as well as the agencies. We hope to chart a different course that has both progress and balance.”
    Chang said “I’m directing DLNR to focus on processing transfers we agree are win-win, as well as negotiating with stakeholders on the multiple-use lands. We are putting all available lands on the negotiating table to see whether there are overlooked opportunities to support agriculture, while safeguarding other public trust resources. DLNR and HDOA recognize that each parcel should be reviewed individually, using the existing process of Act 90 that requires the expertise of both boards to prescribe how to best manage natural, cultural, and agricultural resources. Our path forward is consistent with the recommendations of the Act 90 Working Group, formed in 2021, to carefully consider this multi-faceted issue.”
    Hurd concluded, “We are excited to have a shared vision on the path forward. With so many land issues, DLNR and HDOA need to both be at the table to make headway.”

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MAKING GOVERNMENT MORE TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE is a mission of Hawai'i Democratic Party, according to its statement released on Thursday:
"In response to a series of highly publicized cases of corruption and misconduct in state and county government, the State House of Representatives created the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct to review and assess state law and rules relating to standards of conduct of public officers and employees, including ethics, campaign finance and lobbying. The Commission was chaired by retired judge Dan Foley and had members from the Ethics and Campaign Spending Commissions, Common Cause, League of Women Voters, a former United States Attorney and retired Republican legislator.
    "After extensive public hearings and research, the Commission submitted its report to the Legislature recommending 31 bills and resolutions that would strengthen investigation and prosecution of fraud, bring greater transparency to government operations, and the conduct of public official and employees, create more ethical awareness and oversight in government, and reduce the power of money in politics. 
    "The Commission’s report and recommendations can be found at the State House of Representative’s webpage. Additionally, Honolulu Civil Beat has extensive and ongoing coverage on the Commission and the Legislature’s response to the Commission’s recommendations under “LET THE SUNSHINE IN”.
    "The Commission’s report and recommendations have received the support and endorsement of Governor Josh Green and House Speaker Scott Saiki, an increasing number of legislators, community groups and leaders, as well as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Honolulu Civil Beat. '"The bills and resolutions recommended by the Commission will be introduced and heard this current legislative session. You are encouraged to read the Commission’s report and recommendations and share your views with legislators directly and through public hearings.
    "The people of Hawai'i have a unique opportunity this legislative session to reform their government, to make government more transparent and accountable, and to root out corruption and misconduct. But this will not happen unless we all become engaged with our legislators in demanding this reform."

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands.

HELE-ON KAKO'O ISLAND-WIDE PARATRANSIT SERVICES will be entirely operated by MTM Transit. Following a competitive bidding process, MTM announced on Thursday that it is partnering with the County of Hawai'i Mass Transit Agency to operate every aspect of MTA's paratransit services program, including paratransit eligibility assessments, travel training, and the actual paratransit service. Hele-On, the County's public transportation system, offers complementary Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit through its Hele-On Kako'o service. Services are available to individuals with disabilities who are unable to utilize the Hele-On fixed route bus due to their disability.
      The system is an advanced reservation, origin-to-destination service, with service available in Hilo, Puna, and Kailua-Kona. To support its operation of the system, MTM Transit will employ a local staff of

13 teammates, including a Project Manager, a Mobility Specialist, four dispatchers, a Safety Trainer/Road Supervisor, and six Vehicle Operators, who will work out of two dedicated offices in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. This new contract adds to MTM Transit's existing operations in Hawai'i, including performing ADA eligibility assessments at TheHandi-Van Eligibility Center in Honolulu.
    "The Hele-On Kako'o service is imperative to help people with disabilities access the Hawai'i County community and lead happy, healthy, and productive lives," said MTM Transit Regional Vice President Scott Transue. "We're honored to be MTA's single, trusted partner for eligibility assessments, travel training, and paratransit operations, and look forward to offering MTA and its passengers world-class innovation and a superior customer experience."
    Chief Operating Office Brian Balogh added, "Our operation with MTA represents an opportunity for MTM Transit to showcase the value of leveraging our eligibility assessment, travel training, and paratransit best practices to maximize program efficiency and control costs. We look forward to a long, successful relationship with the County and its Hele-On Kako'o passengers."
    "The County of Hawai'i Mass Transit Agency is pleased to have a firm like MTM Transit that has professional paratransit experience serving our operations" stated John Andoh, Mass Transit Administrator & General Manager. "We are looking forward to launching the in-person eligibility assessments, travel training, a volunteer driver program, as it provides additional mobility options for our island residents in need of mobility-based services".
    To learn more about Hele-On services, visit www.heleonbus.org or call 808.961.8744, option 2, TTD/TTY: 711 for the hearing impaired. 

St. Jude's Hot Meals are free to those in need on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until food runs out, no later than noon. Volunteers from the community are welcome to help and can contact Karen at pooch53@gmail.com. Location is 96-8606 Paradise Circle Drive in Ocean View. Those in need can also take hot showers from 9 a.m. to noon and use the computer lab from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are served from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Nā'ālehu Hongwanji. Volunteers prepare the food provided by 'O Ka'ū Kākou with fresh produce from its gardens on the farm of Eva Liu, who supports the project. Other community members also make donations and approximately 150 meals are served each day, according to OKK President Wayne Kawachi.

Volcano Evening Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music, artisan crafts, ono grinds, and fresh produce. See facebook.com.

Volcano Swap Meet, fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to noon. Large variety of vendors with numerous products. Tools, clothes, books, toys, local made healing extract and creams, antiques, jewelry, gemstones, crystals, food, music, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also offered are cakes, coffee, and shave ice. Live music.

Volcano Farmers Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., with local produce, baked goods, food to go, island beef and Ka'ū Coffee. EBT is used for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps. Call 808-967-7800.

Ka'ū Kākou Market, Nā'ālehu, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Nadine Ebert at 808-938-5124 or June Domondon 808-938-4875. See facebook.com/OKauKakouMarket.

Ocean View Community Market, Saturdays and Wednesdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner of Kona Drive and Highway 11, where Thai Grindz is located. Masks mandatory. 100-person limit, social distancing required. Gate unlocked for vendors at 5:30 a.m., $15 dollars, no reservations needed. Parking in the upper lot only. Vendors must provide their own sanitizer. Food vendor permits required. Carpooling is encouraged.