JL JLCCORDING TO CYNTHIA SALLEY, a few weeks after Stanley Temple and C. John Ralph's study was completed, David Jenkins called her at home and asked if she'd like to see the results. "When it comes to studies of the 'alalâ, I'd like to see any results of any study—period!" she recalled telling him skeptically.
A few days later, Jenkins stopped by the ranch house with a portable movie viewer. As he began flicking through the frames of film, revealing scenes directly inside the 'alala nests, Salley grew angry.
"How often did you climb the trees to change the film?" she asked, her voice trembling.
"Two or three times a week," Jenkins innocently replied.
"Nobody told you weren't supposed to climb the trees?"
"Okay, so you were not told," she said, believing that Jenkins had operated in ignorance of her restrictions.
"You go. I'll take it up with Ralph."
Salley called Ralph and, by her own admission, blasted him. "I
told you no climbing of trees! Observation from blinds! Minimally invasive research! You totally ignored what I said. Researchers are no longer welcome on McCandless land!"
Ralph replied, according to Salley, that he hadn't known that climbing trees was part of the research plan and that Temple, not he, had made all the arrangements. "It was all just a misunderstanding," he said.
For Salley, it was one misunderstanding too many. In 1980 she placed a kapu—the Hawaiian word for taboo or prohibition—on McCandless Ranch. No more researchers would be allowed to set foot on the property. To the consternation of many biologists, the kapu would last for twelve long years.
Salley said that, whenever a researcher came to her door to ask for permission to enter the ranch — and there were many—she would tell them, "There are only a few dozen 'alalaa left in the world. Nine are on my ranch. You've got others to try to save. You've got one experiment trying to raise them at Pohakuloa. And you've got other experiments to study them in the wild. Well, I've got my own experiment going on here. It's called the 'Leave Them Alone Project.' We'll compare results in a few years. Meanwhile, stay off my ranch!"
In 1987, according to Salley, DOFAW officials formally requested that she allow state biologists onto the ranch, not only to further study the 'alala but also to try to capture more birds for captive breeding.
"No on both counts," she told them. Salley, amused and alarmed by the request, telephoned Libert Landgraf, a senior official at the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and told him, "When you can prove that biologists can learn to produce and care for the 'alala in captivity, then come back to me."
For several years, officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had tried to gain access to the ranch by what Robert P. Smith, the then Pacific Islands administrator of the Service, called the
"foreplay approach." "My predecessor or Service people would go up and sit on the porch and talk story over lemonade with the owners of the ranch, including Salley and her siblings." To no avail.
Before long, rumors of a pending lawsuit against the ranch began to circulate.
"If someone shot at the birds, we'd have had reason to go investigate," continued Smith. "But in this case we had people who ostensibly cared about birds and who felt that the best policy was to leave them alone. That the last birds were there was a historical accident in my opinion, not because of anything the ranch was doing. I definitely felt that as a biologist and from a commonsense point of view that intervention was needed. The threat of a suit resulted from tremendous frustration."
In 1989, William Paty, chair of DLNR's Board of Land and Natural Resources, had written to the state's deputy attorney general inquiring "what authority we have to enter private property to conduct such programs." The reply: "We do not feel DLNR can enter onto McCandless Ranch property, without the landowner's permission, to capture the 'alalaa."
In May 1989, an increasingly frustrated National Audubon Society, which was seriously contemplating a suit to force open the ranch gates, sent an "Alert" to its Hawai'i members. The Society accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by not forcing access, of kowtowing to Salley, out of fear of "alienating" large landowners.
Hoping to head off a suit, in December 1989 U.S. representative Patricia Saiki from Hawai'i wrote to John Turner, director of the Service, asking "what steps the Fish and Wildlife Service can or will take." Turner reiterated the response to the earlier National Audubon Society request: "The Department of the Interior's Solicitor General has concluded that the Endangered Species Act. . . does not empower the Service to enter private lands unilaterally for purposes of implementing recovery actions."
The Audubon Alert, meanwhile, had inflamed opinions on both sides. Barbara Lee, for several years secluded in her jungle home in Hawai'i but now finding it hard to stay out of the fray, wrote to Harold E. Woodsum Jr., then chair of Audubon's national board of directors, criticizing the recently appointed head of the Hawai'i Audubon Society:
The hasty and ill-advised actions of your inexperienced and newly appointed representative in Hawaii, Miss Dana Kokubun, regarding the Hawaiian Crow, 'alala, have been a disservice to the Society and to the cause of Conservation. . . .
Miss Kokubun . . . has not only placed an endangered species in jeopardy during breeding seasons. She has severely disrupted delicate and tenuous relations between public sector agencies and private landowners who manage protected habitat on the island of Hawaii. Her confrontational . . . tactics have drawn battle lines even between Audubon Society members. She has widened the gap between the environmental and scientific communities and the various species they profess to protect.
Salley and Lee, like Hawai'i Audubon, engaged friends and surrogates in the frenzied letter-writing campaign. Wrote Suzanne Haight of Kamuela to Peter Berle, president of the National Audubon Society:
I don't like the new ideas of experimental manipulations in producing birds as if they were chickens on an assembly line. . . . That kind of mentality should not be dealing with any birds, let alone endangered and highly sensitive species. . . .
McCandless Ranch is doing an excellent job of protecting the crows living there, as well as protecting their lands and business. Mrs. Salley, the ranch owner, is being hassled by biologists out of pure curiosity and pique, since she refuses to allow researchers on the ranch. Frankly, I think Audubon owes her a vote of thanks and appreciation. She could have said, "Take those birds, they are a nuisance," and had far less trouble.
Scientists also joined in the heated debate—most condemning Salley's refusal to allow biologists back on the ranch. Sheila Conant, an associate professor at the University of Hawai'i, for example, claimed in a letter to Paty that "entry to the Waiea Tract to accomplish capture of crows should be an action where the State, not the McCandless Ranch, calls the shots."
Alan A. Lieberman, curator of ornithology at the Zoological Society of San Diego, argued that "to delay in establishing as many unrelated breeding pairs [as possible] would be genetic suicide for the species. ... To ignore this biological reality is folly. I am in total support of the Hawai'i Audubon Society's resolution supporting the captive rearing of the 'alala, which includes the capture of additional wild birds." And Stuart L. Pimm, professor of ecology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his research associate went right to the top and wrote to John Waihee, governor of Hawai'i: "If the 'alala is to be saved from extinction, biologists need to remove the wild colony from its current habitat and incorporate it into the state's breeding program. . . .Wild birds must be brought into captivity and brought into captivity now."
In November 1989, Audubon magazine published a staff-written editorial in which Kokubun was quoted: "The ranch is using the 'alalaa as a smokescreen. . . . There is a lot of logging going on there. The owners are afraid that if biologists get in and find the 'alala's almost gone, they'll invoke the Endangered Species Act to stop logging in their habitat." And Berle, Audubon's president, there accuses the state of Hawai'i of allowing "personal opinion and petty politics to intrude into the realm of scientific fact, giving an individual landowner the power to dictate public policy."
Salley, fearing a suit was just around the corner, attempted to head it off by opening her gates just a crack—and then to a select few. Governor Waihee, Paty, and several federal officials managed to convince Salley to allow them to make a two-day fact-finding visit to McCandless Ranch. The National Audubon Society claimed credit for this coup. The Maui News praised Berle for being "willing to flex a little muscle locally in the 'alalaas' behalf." Despite the solicitor general's earlier conclusion that the "Endangered Species Act . . . does not empower the Service to enter private lands unilaterally for purposes of implementing recovery actions," Berle was quoted in the News as saying, "We believe that the legal tools are available to allow entry onto the McCandless property."
By the summer of 1990, Governor Waihee, unable to defuse the conflict and feeling political heat from the vocal conservation community, all but begged Salley to open the ranch gates to biologists:
I am writing to request your permission to allow the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enter the McCandless Ranch. . . . We must have access to the crow's range that coincides with the lands of your ranch to determine the number, age and sex of the remaining wild crows. . . . I ask, also, that you allow the most qualified experts to study the wild 'alala. I have been assured that any scientists or other personnel allowed onto the ranch to study the 'alala will conduct themselves in a professional manner and be respectful of your property.
If he expected empathy from Salley, none was forthcoming. She wrote back:
No research done over the past 20 years by State and Federal employees has accomplished the goals set forth in your letter. ... I cannot believe that you would have the 'alalaa's best interest at heart by encouraging more disturbance. The arrogance implied, through you, by the wildlife biologists, that their approach is the only salvation of the 'alala, is repugnant and in error. . . .
Our experiences concerning the honesty and professionalism of the State and Federal agencies and wildlife biologists have been less than satisfactory. . . . FEDE, SED CUI VIDE — Trust, but take care whom you trust. . . .
Lastly, it is difficult to believe that there are those who would think that our integrity would allow us to answer you, any differently than we would answer the low man on the Bureaucratic totem pole. We feel that our arguments stand rationally against other viewpoints and singly, on their own.
In February 1991, with biologists no closer to getting through the gates, the National Audubon Society began soliciting funds for its war chest in order to take legal action.
In 1990, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund attorneys representing the National Audubon Society and Hawai'i Audubon wrote to Manuel Lujan Jr., secretary of the interior under President George H. W. Bush, threatening a suit while offering a primer on the Endangered Species Act, which Lujan, in the view of many conservationists, sorely needed:
The Service has a legal obligation to enter the McCandless Ranch immediately to take the actions necessary to save the species from extinction . . . if you do not take immediate action, we will file a lawsuit to compel you to do so.
The Service has failed in its management and recovery duties for the 'alalaa because it has timidly bowed to the objections of the landowner . . . the Service has taken the position that it is powerless to gain access to the Ranch without the owners' express permission. . . . To the contrary, the Service has the clear right, and indeed the obligation, to take . . . immediate actions.
According to plaintiffs, federal law provided several justifications for the Service to enter the ranch. For one, the Endangered Species Act required the Service to use "all methods and procedures" necessary to save an endangered species. "Although the ESA does not expressly grant authority to enter private property over the objection of the landowner for purposes of conserving listed species," the letter read, "such authority must necessarily be implied by the express statutory duties to conserve endangered species. . . . The crows themselves, of course, do not belong to the McCandless Ranch owners . . . they are a public resource under the stewardship of the Service and the state DLNR. Because of this status, the McCandless Ranch owners cannot exercise authority over them."
Second, according to the plaintiffs, the Endangered Species Act also required the Service to "develop and implement a recovery plan for this species." In fact, the Service had approved a recovery plan for the 'alala back in 1982. The letter to Lujan argued that "simply preparing a Recovery Plan is not enough, however. The ESA also required the Service to 'implement' that plan." And that, according to the letter, would mean storming the gates of McCandless Ranch.
Peter Simmons, the manager of McCandless Ranch at the time, didn't care much for lawyers or researchers and expressed Salley's own view when he told one reporter, "We really have a lot of aloha for the birds, but we don't give a hang for scientific research."
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