Environmental Law Program

ELP Director David Forman presents to the California Chapters for the American Board of Trial Advocates

On November 7, 2017, ELP Director David Forman ’93 gave an educational presentation to the California chapters for the American Board of Trial Advocates (CAL-ABOTA) at their Hawaiʻi Conference in Kīhei, Maui.  CAL-ABOTA invited Forman to return after his well-received talk, “A Brief Introduction to Hawai‘i from an Environmental Perspective” at their 2016 conference on the Big Island. 

Director Forman with fellow presenters Don Howarth and Suzelle Smith.

Asked to speak this year about “What’s Happening in Maui County?,” Forman subtitled his talk “The False Trichotomy of Economic Development, Environmental Protection and Cultural Reaffirmation.”  The presentation highlighted recent news developments in Maui County, in addition to providing a glimpse at efforts to preserve unique species found on its islands.  For example, recent scientific reports documenting re-establishment of the endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat, ʻŌpeʻapeʻa (the only native land mammal found in the islands), on the island of Kahoʻolawe – a military live fire target for nearly fifty years beginning in World War II.  One of the catalysts for the Hawaiian renaissance in the 1970’s, Kaho‘olawe is destined under state law to eventually be transferred to a sovereign Hawaiian entity recognized by the United States. For the first time this year, the Legislature included a line item in the state budget for Fiscal Years 2018/2019, to support restoration efforts by the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission and its community partners. See, e.g., http://www.civilbeat.org/2014/10/promised-land-will-kahoolawe-ever-be-saved/.

On Lāna‘i, tech billionaire Larry Ellison is embarking on the second phase of his ambitious plan to make the island a model for sustainability.  The owner of approximately 98% percent of the island since 2012 now proposes to transform agriculture through reduced transportation costs and reliance on renewable energy, based on an automated, computer-driven hydroponic system that uses nutrient infused water to produce healthier crops with one-tenth less the water that would be utilized in a traditional agricultural system.  The project will supplement Ellison’s ongoing community health initiatives, as well as renovation of the Koele Lodge into a luxury spa destination.  One of the strategies adopted by the Lanai Community Plan (2016) is to: “Revive traditional resource management practices and local stewardship to protect or restore cultural and natural resources that are essential to traditional Hawaiian cultural practices. Community place-based traditional resource management, such as ahupua‘a, can be combined with other resource management practices and regulations to build community stewardship and ensure the continuation of subsistence practices.” Meanwhile, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary continues to provide a caring and secure home for cats found island wide – including those captured in remote bird nesting grounds – to help perpetuate the island’s endangered birds:  ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian Petrel), ‘Ua‘u Kani (Wedge-tailed Shearwater), Ae‘o (Hawaiian Stilt), and ‘Alae Ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian Coot). 

Molokai Ranch, covering about one-third of the island, was recently listed for sale at $260 million.  Community members with a long history of successful opposition to development proposals by the current owner, have invested hundreds of hours into collective planning to produce a community plan that envisions sustainable economic activities, while protecting cultural resources as well as environmentally valuable natural resources, agricultural land, pasture and open space. Promising to hold new owners to this community plan, We Are Moloka‘i Pule O‘o is actively seeking investors who share their vision for the island. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the island, the Molokai Land Trust secured a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service last year to obtain a conservation easement over nearly 1,000 acres at Kaluahaa Ranch.

Finally, closure of the islands’ last sugar plantation on Maui at the end of 2016, highlights the importance of ongoing efforts to regulate water use. All of the major cases decided by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court regarding implementation of the State Water Code have involved Native Hawaiian rights in some form. Final submissions in contested case proceedings on water use permit applications involving Na Wai ‘Eha (the “Four Great Waters”) were filed in February 2017, and the State Commission on Water Resource Management heard final arguments in October 2017 on another petition to restore stream flow previously interrupted by the East Maui Irrigation (EMI) System – a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark that is one of the largest diversions of water in the United States. By donating almost 4,000 acres of land to the Nature Conservancy in 2014, EMI further illustrated the false trichotomy by helping to conserve important habitat for continued survival of native Hawaiian birds including the ‘i‘iwi (scarlet honeycreeper), ‘akohekohe (crested honeycreeper), and ‘amakihi (Hawaiian honeycreeper).