Public Birds, Private Lands
State agency looks to acquire lands for public bird hunting.
By Brandon Roberts
Access to hunting grounds is an obstacle that Molokai hunters must deal with due to increasing private land ownership. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) proposed to pursuit an agreement with private landowners, in order to guarantee the rights of residents to hunt birds.
“This is a starting point,” said Shane De Mattos, DLNR Wildlife Biologist. “First we get community support, then we go to the landowners.”
The DLNR asked for public input, during an informal meeting last week Thursday at the Mitchell Paoule Center. A majority of participants gave the DLNR support to seek a cooperative agreement with private landowners.
This proposal deals specifically with bird hunting and public access. Much of Molokai’s public hunting lands are not suitable bird habitats. The DLNR wants to open up a dialogue with Molokai landowners, with the aim of acquiring more areas for bird hunting.
“Current access is bad,” resident Lori Buchanan said. “No one can get to lands where the animals are.” Buchanan recommended that DLNR contact the landowners before consulting the community.
The proposal would put approved private lands under DLNR responsibility and liability. “It is a cooperative agreement between DLNR and the landowner,” De Mattos said. “There would also be minor restorative actions to the habitat,” De Mattos further explained.
Some community participants expressed concerns with the removal of birds from the cornfields. These birds are allegedly being gathered and sent over to Oahu, leaving the Molokai hunters with fewer fowl.
Many felt the DLNR was taking a step in the right direction. Others, like hunter Yama Kaholoaa, thought things were fine and that Molokai does not need state intervention.
“We are subsistence hunters on Molokai, not sport or recreational hunters,” Kaholoaa said. “More public access means more hunters and fewer animals.”
If the land acquisition were to happen, the money used would be state or federal. With the acceptance of governmental money, stipulations will be attached. There can be no discrimination on who can hunt, and no priority to animals will be given to any group. This land proposal would limit hunting to weekends and state holidays from February through October.