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Coqui Free Waimea

Coqui frogs come in all sizes. From eggs, center, they emerge as frogs (right of eggs) rather than tadpoles. They are mature within a year, ready to wreak havoc on the environment and shriek loudly. With no predators, even internal parasites found in their native habitat of Puerto Rico, the frogs live longer and grow bigger. These frogs were caught in Kona. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Coqui frogs come in all sizes. From eggs, center, they emerge as frogs (right of eggs) rather than tadpoles. They are mature within a year, ready to wreak havoc on the environment and shriek loudly. With no predators, even internal parasites found in their native habitat of Puerto Rico, the frogs live longer and grow bigger. These frogs were caught in Kona. (COURTESY PHOTO)

In this election season, it is useful to recognize that control of invasive pests like coqui frogs is a political issue. Coqui-Free Waimea has been organizing the community to find and remove frogs and to control existing infestations. We have used grant money and donations to buy equipment and citric acid and to pay a volunteer coordinator and a control technician hourly wages to help the effort.

During the last election cycle, we asked candidates for County Council for help in fighting coqui frogs. Valerie Poindexter, then-candidate for Council from Hamakua and a portion of Waimea, promised to use contingency funds to help. She was elected and kept her promise, purchasing a large quantity of citric acid for our use. That citric acid came from the County’s bulk purchase, made at our request to take advantage of the County’s purchasing power to get a lower price.

At the recent Waimea Community Association candidate forum, Coqui-Free Waimea was a co-sponsor of the event and stepped up pressure for government participation in this issue. Among the questions raised for candidates’ comments was this: Will you support accountability for transport of invasive pests around the island? And which agency will be given authority and funding to enforce this accountability? It is already illegal to transport designated invasive species (including coqui frogs and little fire ants) within and between islands, but there has been little or no enforcement. These pests hitchhike on cars, trucks, trailers, building materials, plants, and bulldozers. Shouldn’t there be some accountability for big-box stores, builders and their suppliers, government agencies, nurseries and landscapers, truckers, and car-rental agencies?

Some of the resort areas in West Hawaii have the clout to tell builders and landscapers that they won’t get paid if they bring coqui frogs. The rest of us need our government to exercise that kind of clout.

The Oahu-centric legislators consider Hawaii Island a lost cause for coqui control, but they are wrong. Large portions of the island are still very much manageable. Giving up on these areas—Kona, Volcano, North and South Kohala, among them—could have devastating economic effects: tourists avoid heavily infested, noisy areas. Houses lose value, export of agricultural and nursery products is restricted, and endemic species are threatened.

Without blaming any single industry for spreading coqui frogs, let’s invoke some rules and accountability to make existing laws effective while supporting the costs that come with controlling these pests.

One of the benefits of living in a rural area like the Big Island is that our government officials and candidates are accessible. Especially during election season, they listen to constituents and voters. Let them know that coqui control is not a lost cause in North and South Kohala. Let them know we want to keep Waimea quiet.

To support Coqui-Free Waimea, send donations to: The Kohala Center (write “coqui” in the memo line), P.O. Box 437462, Kamuela, HI, 96743.