By Becky Steckler
Trouble in Paradise
Haleakala National Park's serene, otherworldly beauty
attracts thousands of visitors to the Hawaiian island of
Maui every year. Unfortunately, its flora, fauna and
ecosystems, shaped by millions of years of isolation, would
be threatened by foreign invaders if an airport extension is
"An expansion of our airport would open up a Pandora's box
of potentially destructive pests," said Lucienne de Naie of
the Maui Group conservation committee. Hawaii's overworked
customs inspectors already allow 20 new alien organisms a
year to slip by their scrutiny. More frequent flights from
Asia and the South Pacific could introduce dangerous
diseases and pests, such as malaria, the highly destructive
browntree snake and agricultural blights to Haleakala
National Park and the rest of Maui.
The controversial project would expand Maui's small, 11-gate
Kahului airport to a booming 42-gate transportation hub.
Proponents of expansion include Maui's Visitors Bureau and
Chamber of Commerce, who hope to boost visitor counts
regardless of environmental cost.
In 1992, the Maui Group allied with Maui Malama Pono, a
local citizen's group formed to help stop the airport
expansion, challenged the project's environmental impact
statement. A federal judge agreed with environmentalists
that the original document was inadequate and ordered a new
However, de Naie said the new study dismisses
environmentalists' concerns. "Maui's airport is surrounded
by Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanaha Beach Park and
open cane fields," said Bob Coffey of the Maui Group. "We're
a perfect breeding ground for escaped species and we just
can't afford to take the chance."
Motorized Madness in Minnesota
A peaceful paddle in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
(BWCAW) and Voyageurs National Park may soon become
impossible if pro-motor forces have their way.
Last year, motor advocates mounted an effort to radically
open both Boundary Waters and Voyageurs to snowmobile,
motorboat and truck traffic and demanded that control of
these lands be transferred from the U.S. Forest Service and
National Park Service to local authorities.
This year, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Rod Grams (R-
Minn.) introduced legislation that does more than appease
pro-motor interests. Oberstar's bill, H.R. 3297, would open
up portages in the million-acre BWCAW to trucks and four-
wheel drive vehicles and expand motorboat use. It would also
establish an "intergovernmental council" that could dictate
management of the BWCAW to the federal government. Another
Oberstar bill, H.R. 3298, would establish the same type of
local-control in Voyageurs National Park. In May, Grams
introduced a comparable bill in the Senate, S. 1738.
The hero in this Midwest wilderness drama is Rep. Bruce
Vento (D-Minn) who has introduced a bill, H.R. 3470, to
further restrict motorboat access in the BWCAW, add 14,000
acres of wilderness and designate the 74,000-acre Kabetogama
Peninsula in Voyageurs as wilderness.
Oberstar and Grams are listening to a loud but small group
of local motor proponents instead of their constituents. A
St. Cloud State University poll found that four out of five
Minnesotans want protection of BWCAW and Voyageurs
maintained at current levels or strengthened.
"We need to convince Congress to listen to the majority of
Minnesotans and citizens across the country who believe it
is critical to preserve and protect these wilderness areas,"
said Jill Walker of the North Star Chapter.
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