Clouds mottled the light from the big moon, confusing the roosters into thinking they were crickets and so should crow all night, but because there are so many they create a pleasant sort of white noise, like the rushing sea. It was to this sound that the dogs and I awoke and went to watch the beginning of the day.
It started out as a streak of pale, and then came the color. Pink puffballs floated across a backdrop of gray and blue, which became butterscotch as the horizon caught fire. The Giant turned rusty in the glow, fine white fringe draped itself over the blue summit of Waialeale and Makaleha was under siege from an advancing mass of black.
And through this splendor marched that incredibly ugly line of tall power poles strung with numerous lines, creating what Earthjustice attorney David Henkin so aptly described as a an “aerial drift net” indiscriminately killing birds in a critical Newell’s shearwater flyway.
But hey, we can trust KIUC, which had to be indicted by the feds and sued twice by conservationists before it finally cleaned up its act with protected birds, to do the right thing as it pursues hydro under the guidance of its mainland consultants, Free Flow Power.
Because, as KIUC Board member Ben Sullivan says, in a 50-minute KIUC spin-a-thon posted on For Kauai by Hawaii Stream, “we’re accountable to you.”
You know, Ben, I really want to believe that elected officials are accountable first and foremost to the voters. After all, isn’t that the cornerstone of a democracy? But in the real world of politics, I’ve seen politicians at the county, state and federal level blow off the public and make incredibly bad decisions, yet keep getting re-elected. So my faith is kinda shaky.
Which brings me to a resolution that the County Council, despite what The Garden Island reported, has not yet passed, but is apparently poised to approve tomorrow.
I’m not exactly sure why the Council decided to delve into a topic that seems outside its purview — the controversial practice of trapping and neutering feral cats, and then returning them to the wild. But since it has, members now bear the responsibility of making a good decision when they cast their votes on whether to endorse a resolution that supports the TNR program “as a component of a humane approach to controlling Kauai’s homeless and feral cat population.”
On the surface, it does seem like a good thing. Most people feel sorry for the wild cats and their tragic lives, and no one likes the idea of asking the folks at the Humane Society to kill more animals. I know they’re not keen on it, either.
But it defies common sense, especially for a county that just last year faced federal charges and fines for illegally taking protected birds, to support wild cat colonies in areas known to be inhabited by endangered water birds and protected migratory seabirds.
Even when federal wildlife biologist Michael Mitchell flat out warned the Council that ““TNR practices likely violates the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act because a TNR colony here on Kauai will most likely result in the direct take of protected species, whether it be a Hawaiian duck, Newell’s shearwater, or one of the other five species of federally threatened or endangered ground nesting birds found on Kauai,” there was resistance.
Councilman Tim Bynum, certainly no authority, countered that he didn’t think TNR was a problem, while Kauai Ferals founder Margaret Sueoka, fired from the county attorney’s office, uttered what every cat owner, including Councilman Dickie Chang, knows to be a lie: a cat that is fed daily has no desire to roam at night for food.
Mitchell went on to tell the Council that the program would be “counterproductive” to protecting endangered species, and that necropsies had found native birds in the stomachs of wild cats. It's pretty clear. Native birds and feral cats don’t mix.
Yet currently the Kauai Humane Society, which receives substantial funding from the county, is supporting a TNR program at the Marriott, which has so many species of endangered birds that special training was required for contractors working at the adjacent Kauai Lagoons.
There’s also the very real problem of the cats transmitting toxoplasmosis, which reportedly caused the death of two endangered monk seals. Yet KHS is supporting a TNR program at Larsen’s (Lepeuli), which is frequented by mother seals and their pups and most certainly would have nesting shearwaters and albatrosses if they weren’t being killed by feral cats and pet dogs. (Yet surprisingly, there’s no outcry from the supposed defenders of that beach.)
KHS also supports a TNR program at Lydgate, another place that certainly should have wedgetail shearwaters, because I’ve heard them beneath the condos on the north side of the Wailua River. It’s got another one at PMRF, where albatross try to nest, but the navy won’t let them, and at the Safeway shopping center, which abuts wetlands where I have seen gallinule and other endangered water birds.
So aside from the question of whether the Council could really be so dense as to lend its support to a program that is getting a thumbs down from the feds, there’s the issue of how KHS can legitimately accept money from the county and KIUC to protect Newell’s shearwaters even as it’s supporting the feral cats kill them.
I understand why KHS likes TNR. It's supposedly cheaper and definitely less disturbing than euthanasia, and it’s touted as “saving animals,” which encourages people to donate money.
Problem is, while they’re saving cats, of which the planet has no shortage, they’re killing birds that are already edging toward extinction and exist nowhere else in the world.
Cat huggers — and don’t get me wrong, I love kitties, too — might not want to face that reality. But it’s important that our elected officials do.