Breaking ground at the ocean recreation area in Kawaihae are, left to right, Ed Underwood administrator of the DLNR Dept. of Boating and Ocean Recreation, Nancy Murphy, Hawaii district manager, Cedric Ota vice president of Hawaii Dredging Construction Company, William Aila Jr. DLNR Chairperson, State Sen. Malama Solomon, State Representative Faye Hanohano, Bill Wilson, president of Hawaii Dredging Construction Company, and State Rep. Cindy Evans. (FILE PHOTO)
Waikoloa Village Association manager Roger Wehrsig, left, stands near a plot of land under consideration for the new Waikoloa Public Library with Representative Cindy Evans. (FILE PHOTO)
Lisa Hadway, center, leads a field trip for policy makers and community collaborators to the Puu O Umi Natural Area Reserve on Kohala Mountain. (Courtesy photo by Mark Nakashima).
Lisa Hadway, in her role as manager for the Hawaii Island Natural Area Reserve program, explains the access facilities for community members at the Kilohana Stream Biodiversity Preserve, the first of its kind on Kohala Mountain. (COURTESY PHOTO BY MARK NAKASHIMA)
Sen. Malama Solomon, second from left, watches as Governor Neil Abercrombie signs a bill into law. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Margaret Wille speaks with longtime Waimea resident, Dowsett James, at her open house event in Waimea on Dec. 4. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Councilwoman Margaret Wille attends the grand opening of the Kamakoa Nui Skate Park in Waikoloa on Sept. 29. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
From the county council to the state Legislature, including the management of state workers in our forests, North Hawaii has women holding the reins at multiple levels of government who are creating and implementing public policies to care for our island’s natural resources.
Four local leaders – state Sen. Malama Solomon, D-North Hawaii, Rep. Cindy Evans, D—North Kona, South Kohala, Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille and Lisa Hadway, Hawaii Island branch manager for the State DLNR — are using their skills and expertise to sustain our land and water future.
Cindy Evans: solving problems
“I ran for office because of what was happening to the land,” said Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona and South and North Kohala, who is chairwoman of the Land and Water Committee in the House.
Evans believes that the underlying values of the rural communities of Hawaii Island are not understood by urban dwellers on Oahu.
“When I am helping to make policy, I always keep in mind the quality of life for our people here, and our sense of place. As a community, we are connected to the land and water. We need to support hunting and fishing that provide subsistence for our residents,” she said.
As a lawmaker, Evans understands that the process of changing laws about land and water makes people nervous.
“It takes a lot of education, making connections, and building consensus,” she said. “My role is to find out what the consequences are to all constituents.”
The population is growing, so there are more users, and more demand on our natural resources. Without an awareness of the ability of these resources to regenerate, our heritage and lifestyle are being challenged, said Evans.
“The overriding issue is to find the balance so that the land and water can continue to give us life,” she said.
Lisa Hadway: getting the work done
“From the time I was in fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a biologist,” said Lisa Hadway, the newly appointed Hawaii Island branch manager for the State DLNR, Division of Forestry and Wildlife. After graduating from HPA, she went on to study biology at UH-Manoa.
“While studying with Professor Alison Kay, I began to understand the amazing evolutionary story of Hawaii, of our unique species, and the importance of protecting them,” said Hadway.
Hadway has 20 years of on-the-ground experience with natural resources in Hawaii, including managing the DOFAW Natural Area Reserves program, work at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, and restoration of dryland forest at Kaupulehu.
“I had the opportunity to learn from Hannah Springer, a lineal descendant of the lands of Kaupulehu. From the Hawaiian perspective, there is such a connection between cultural resources and natural resources that they are one in the same,” she said.
Hadway’s role as a DOFAW branch manager is to implement programs that might seem in conflict with each other: to manage forests, fight fires, provide trails and access, manage wildlife and public hunting, and protect native biodiversity.
“There is room on our island for all kinds of users of state land,” said Hadway. “We need our people to have the chance to touch and feel and see the resources we are all part of,” she said. “But we also want to educate the public about how government works, and the challenges involved in public management of land.”
“The biggest challenge is when stakeholder groups seem at odds over their uses of public land. It becomes an ‘us versus them’ scenario. We need to listen to each other and have productive exchanges. There is room for everyone,” she said.
Hadway believes these groups that seem in opposition actually have similar underlying values when it comes to the land.
“We all want to protect the forest from development, to preserve the native biodiversity, to protect our water sources, and to facilitate people’s use of the land,” she said.
In her leadership role for the DOFAW programs on Hawaii Island, Hadway wants to be proactive, to make a comprehensive plan for future projects, and to support the programs that are underfunded and understaffed so that they can implement their mandates.
“Don’t say it can’t be done,” said Hadway.
Margaret Wille: defending home rule
“People who live here are so lucky,” thought Councilwoman Margaret Wille when she first visited Waimea in 1971. Now a permanent resident and elected to the County Council in 2012, Wille has taken on leadership as chairwoman of the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability.
“We need to find the balance between development and a sense of preserving the vitality of life,” said Wille. “We can’t take our resources for granted. The trees, the rain, the turtles have no voice.”
To Wille, sustainability means trying to look ahead, to balance short-term economic gains with the long-term economic impacts of decisions on the well-being of the community. She wants to educate herself and the community about environmental issues, and sees no conflict between caring for the environment and caring for people.
According to state law, the County has jurisdiction to make resolutions about property, health, and social order. Wille believes that “there is an ocean between people and this first layer of government.”
“We need to look at our role in the County Council as policy-makers,” said Wille. “Legitimate needs and fears need to be considered from all points of view.”
“I want to educate, inform, and engage the public,” said Wille.
Malama Solomon: funding the public trust
“What use is a pristine environment if people cannot afford to live here?” said Senator Malama Solomon, elected to represent District 4, and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Land and Water.
Solomon grew up in North Kohala, from a Native Hawaiian family deeply committed to hula, ranching, and caring for the land.
She served in the State Senate from 1983 to 1998, and was appointed by Governor Abercrombie to fill a vacant Senate seat in 2011, and then elected to her current position in 2012. In reflecting on the changes since her first stint in the Senate in the 1980’s, Solomon is “not shocked, but shattered, by the stripping of the DLNR’s structure and funding,” she said. “Our ideas back then were that we wanted DLNR to be self-sustaining. DLNR is the foundation of Hawaii.”
“The mission of DLNR is to facilitate public use of public lands,” said Solomon. “We came up with the idea of the Public Lands Development Corporation to help move us towards being self-sustaining. But now that is repealed, we are back where we started from,” she said.
Solomon hopes to develop potential sources of local funding from natural resources that have not yet been tapped into.
“We need to diversify. We can use biomass as a funding source. Tourists use our natural resources without paying for them. We should develop our small boat harbors and state parks, and charge a fee to non-residents for their use,” said Solomon.
Solomon believes that public lands are for the public’s use, but that fewer people are in touch with their natural resources.
“There is too much divisiveness. Public land use has become a fight, and special interest groups have polarized the issue,” she said. “As a result, our children are disenfranchised from the public lands.”
“Conditions have changed, but policies have not,” said Solomon. “It’s a new time and a new day, and we need to have a sense of urgency,” she said.