LIHUE — Local environmental groups are shaking their heads at newly elected Gov. David Ige’s nomination of Honolulu-based developer and lobbyist Carleton Ching to chair the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“Not only is (Ching) not the right person, he’s the wrong person,” local resident Makaala Kaaumoana said Monday.
Ige announced Ching as his choice Friday, saying, “No one understands better the complex issues the department handles and how to balance the needs of our environment and our residents.”
More than 20 environmental groups around the state, including several on Kauai, however, disagree. In a joint statement Monday, they asked Ige to withdraw his nomination and drop any plans to weaken or eliminate the Land Use Commission.
Kaaumoana, a member of the Conservation Council for Hawaii and Hui Hoomalu I Ka Aina, two of the opposing groups, said Ige’s choice “came out of left field” and is a step in the wrong direction in terms of protecting Hawaii’s public trust resources.
“It’s very difficult to try and see what Gov. Ige had in mind with this nominee,” she said.
Gary Hooser, a Kauai County Council member and president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, said he supported Governor Ige’s election, worked with him for eight years in the Senate and considers him a friend.
As for the appointment, Hooser said he was “very disappointed and somewhat flabbergasted” by it.
“While Carlton Ching is no doubt a competent administrator, his extensive background as a lobbyist on behalf of development interests are inappropriate credentials for a position responsible for the preservation of our states finite natural resources,” Hooser wrote. “Each of us has some inherent bias and this position deserves someone whose bias leans toward protecting our natural environment for the benefit of future generations, rather than for the development and commercialization of those same irreplaceable public resources.”
Carl Berg of the Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter said his nonprofit environmental organization is united in opposition.
“Our natural resources desperately need a champion, especially in light of the effects of global climate change on marine and nearshore environments,” Berg wrote in an email.
Kaaumoana said Hawaii is home to many stewards — people working to protect cultural and natural resources. Ching, however, simply isn’t one of them, she said.
“We deserve someone who’s qualified, and this nomination is disappointing and disheartening,” she said.
Rayne Regush of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, Kauai Chapter voiced similar concerns.
“Experience in housing development and real estate is not a good fit to meet the challenges DLNR faces in the years ahead to protect and manage Hawaii’s natural legacy,” she wrote in an email.
In the first three days since Ige’s announcement, nearly 5,000 people signed a petition urging the Hawaii State Senate not to confirm the nominee.
“This is putting the fox to guard the hen house,” the petition reads.
In its joint statement, the 20-plus environmental groups said Ching has no demonstrated expertise in managing resources that fall under the department’s purview.
“It is still early in Governor Ige’s term, and we urge him to make the proper course corrections for the benefit of our natural environment and the people of Hawaii nei,” the groups wrote.