Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hawaii: Palila 'Environmental' Program is a Dismal Failure

Friday, August 1, 2008, the Hawaii Tribune Herald on its front page declares “Lawyers bash state for not protecting rare bird."

As a sub headline they announce Palila numbers are falling as sheep and goats, supposedly harm the habitat. The article presupposes that many of the premises for Palila recovery are accurate. It presumes that the Sierra Club, Earth Justice, and those actually studying the Palila which include the USGS Biological Resource Division, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Hawaii and other research bodies got it right to start with.

Well they have all the credentials, all the grant writers and a "Free Legal Team" to keep this sham going while to many observers it’s clear that their paradigm has failed.

I loved the expertise that we are expected to rely on to keep this shameful hoax alive, such as front page news that the Palila numbers dropped from 5,354 birds in 2003, to an estimated 2,237 birds today, a “64” percent drop. No one seems to question these so called experts, and because there is no accountability, we the taxpayers get looted for millions and millions of dollars and acres and acres of land removed from public use.

First off, going from 5,324 birds to an “estimated” 2,237 birds today is not a 64% drop. If the population was 5,324 in 2003 and is 2,237 today, that is a loss of 3,117 birds. This is 58% of 5,324, not 64%. Nobody checks. Nobody checks the numbers or what they have been doing up on Mauna Kea for 30 years but they want us to pay for it.

The fact is, the Palila program has been to many a dismal failure and all they can blame for it is the sheep, which they have been eradicating relentlessly from the mountain. This is a cover-up. This is a deflection of the fact that the Sierra Club, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and their entire support cast may have got it wrong.

The Sierra Club and their Defense fund, now Earth Justice, made the assumption that the sheep were overgrazing Mauna Kea and this “necessarily” would harm the Palila, a pretty and noisy mamane seed eater. So in 1980 when Palila numbers were about 3200 birds, they started the eradication of feral sheep and goats on Mauna Kea, slaughtering rams, ewes, and baby lambs. By 1981, the numbers of Palila rose to over 6,000, and the slaughter continued.

Earth Justice Lawyers and the Audubon want you to believe that eradicating the sheep made a big difference. Though the eradication continued, and continues through today, keeping sheep numbers at perilously low levels and jeopardizing the overall health of Mauna Kea, by 1982 the numbers of Palila had dropped again to about 3100 birds, and fell precipitously to 1300 birds in 1985.

This by itself shows that the Sierra Club, the Audubon and Earth Justice and their minions seem to have miscalculated the cause and effect of sheep and the Palila. Their concocted science is not holding up, as they so often preach and their only remedy to what seems to be faulty science is again to voice these various alarming hypotheses of impending cataclysm for the Palila. No one is asking why.

No one is questioning the millions of dollars we spend on these failing approaches and loss of public lands to reasonable recreation. And they want you to pay more, with a ridiculous proposal to fence the entire mountain, 80% of which probably hasn’t seen a palila for a hundred years. We need to take care of where of where they are, not as the Sierra Club, Earth Justice, or most surprisingly the Audubon Society seem to think they can wish the Palila to be.

In 1987 came another lawsuit. This expanded the feral sheep eradications to include the Mouflon sheep, yet Palila numbers continued to rise and fall. 1985, they estimated 1300 birds; 1990 about 5,000 birds and in 1992 they plunged to 1300 again. By 1995 Palila numbers grew to an estimated 3700, doubling their population in 3 years. In 1999, the Palila numbers soared to near 7,000 but what was it about the year 2000 that caused their numbers to plunge to 3,000 chubby specimens. Actually I don’t know that they were chubby, I suspect that nutrition had a lot to do with the decline, not sheep eating the Palila. But by 2002 they recovered again to 5,354 in number and predictably started a decline again to 2,237 in 2007.

Earth Justice and the Audubon make the most outrageous and totally irresponsible claims imaginable by saying that the Palila will be extinct by 2013. This is strictly a sensational scare tactic used by reckless environmental groups that promote symbolism over substance in order to prey upon us once again.

The case against the sheep by the Sierra Club and Earth Justice has failed. If no one had done anything, the Palila would still be fluctuating up and down as they always have done, only maybe with less energy since eradicating the sheep has turned that once majestic mountain into a weed patch, with weeds, alien grasses, German Ivy and who knows what else now competing with the Mamane and Naio.

If they had done what the State, hunters and other conservationists had proposed at the outset in 1979, the Palila might actually be flourishing instead of languishing.

They want to fence the entire mountain and eradicate all animals within the fence. This is all they know. Fence and eradicate. Far wiser to fence in the area that the Palila actually reside and seeing that they are bent on eradicating the sheep, do so. This will only exacerbate the threat from fire and competition of weeds and vines with the Mamane, but that’s their model. There is no point in fencing any more since in their translocation efforts, where they moved birds to where the “scientists” thought they wanted to be, they have virtually a 100% failure rate with a mortality rate that would have had anyone else jailed.

Earth Justice, their attorneys, the Audubon Society, and their spokesman for this article, have opinions that have driven actions for 30 years, regarding the Palila. These actions have failed to produce any kind of desirable result, save that the Palila have managed to average 3,200 birds for 27 years, exactly where they are today, exactly where they were in 1980. The typical Doomsday cry by the environmentalists is becoming pitiable.

Click: Palila 'Environmental' Program is a Dismal Failure
Hawaii Reporter, HI