Marine Monument Trashed, Group Says

     (CN) – Hawaii’s Natural Resources Department approved “hundreds of permits” to kill animals and damage a Marine National Monument without environmental review, an environmental group says. The Papah’naumoku’kea National Monument includes more than 100 islands, atolls, reefs and shoals on almost 140,000 square miles – more area than all the nation’s national parks combined. It hosts 7,000 species, including endangered Hawaiian monk seals and rare “predator-dominated” ecosystems.

     Kahea – The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance – sued the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources in state court after a whistleblower accused the state agency of refusing to do its job.
     Kahea says the state has illegally granted permits to “harvest thousands of marine species, kill sharks, allow extreme-sports canoe racing and disturb sunken vessels – all without understanding the threat posed to the resources of the Monument.”
     Papah’naumoku’kea is the nation’s first marine monument. Hawaiians lived in the islands, 155 miles northwest of the eight islands inhabited today, and the string of islets are featured in native myths. Modern history of the archipelago is marred by overfishing and military contamination, but public comment favored limiting human activities there, Kahea says.
     The group alleges that the land department has brushed aside environmental assessments required under the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act, citing as confirmation a recently filed wrongful termination claim.
     Former monument policy specialist David Weingartner claims he was fired because he reported to superiors the issuance of permits without environmental review.
     Weingartner’s lawsuit, filed July 8, includes a table indicating 20 permits, most of them for scientific research, which he says lack environmental assessments.
     The alliance seeks injunctive relief and costs, including for expert witnesses. It is represented by Colin Yost of Cruise & Yost in Honolulu.
     The Papah’naumoku’kea Marine National Monument, designated in 2006, is jointly administered by the state department and two federal agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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