Monday, December 21, 2009

Waterspouts and the fire

I return from Kaua'i to find I missed the most exciting weather Kona has had certainly since I've been here (1991). Some of the reports say there were several waterspouts. Damn!

Following up on the previous post about environmental criminals, I did not miss (but was prevented from blogging about it by computer problems) the nasty, heavy, eye-burning smoke from the Hokukano Ranch fire (I wanted to call the post "Smoke-ukano Ranch" - gettit?). There is supposed to be (or was, until the Pace family got the land) large stands of sandalwood up there. While early reports indicated that the fire was still confined to the large areas where the native forest has been cleared (either by the Paces or the Greenwells who preceded them) for cattle ranching, the latest Advertiser story calls it "a forested area" which could mean that the rare sandalwood forests (the ones not bulldozed and sold to China by the Pace family) are indeed burning. Since the fire without doubt adversely affected the health of Kona residents, there should be an investigation to see if bad management practices by Hokukano Ranch played a part in this health and environmental fiasco.

The Pace family placed the ranch on the market earlier this year. Over years, Hokukano Ranch and its owners have been accused of causing flooding with their grading activities (in 2004) and of bulldozing native sandalwood forests and selling the sandalwood (in 1988). An article in the Hawai'i Island chapter of the Sierra Club's magazine claimed that possible a million dollars worth of sandalwood had been shipped from Kona to China in a very short time. The Pace family admitted selling large amounts of sandalwood to China, but denied reports of large-scale clearing, saying that they were merely reclaiming already-bulldozed piles of old trees, and claiming that the profits were a mere $40,000. The article cited discusses the history of the exploitation of Hawaiian sandalwood, noting that the Pace family is merely continuing a sad tradition.

Although they've styled themselves environmentalists, (for example planting stories issuing press releases in 2002 about "blending nature with development" and promising to re-forest the land and to develop not more than 1,000 acres), Hokukano Highlands these days is selling 6400 acres (!) of "ranch properties" with that "wide-open" (i.e. not forested) feeling. The photos show huge tracts of cleared land (though not when the land was cleared). Hopefully, there will be an investigation to figure out where the fire started and why.

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