HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE "CHIRPING" AWAY AT OUR PROPERTY RIGHTS
by Sydney Ross Singer, Medical Anthropologist and Wildlife
Director, Good Shepherd Foundation, Inc.
P. O. Box 1880
Pahoa, Hawaii 96778
Hawaii will soon make history as the first government in the world to officially declare a frog to be a "plant pest" by adding coqui tree frogs to a list of plant pests designated for control or eradication. Property owners beware! This designation will give the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) the right to enter private property to kill coqui tree frogs as plant pests. If property owners want to keep their frogs, or if they object to having their property sprayed with citric acid, hydrated lime, or other frog and environmental poisons, too bad. Coqui chirping is being declared an agricultural crisis, deserving of property rights infringement, according to the HDOA.
Everywhere else in the world frogs are considered beneficial to agriculture, since they eat insect pests. Even in Hawaii, frogs were at one time imported to control insect pests. But intolerance by some residents for the nocturnal chirping of the coqui has led to a multi-million dollar Frog War, and listing the coqui as a plant pest is the latest attempt by the HDOA to be able to kill frogs on private land without owner consent.
But calling frogs "plant pests" does not make them so. Real plant pests, such as fruit flies, aphids, and borers, damage plants or their fruit. Coqui frogs do no harm to plants, and benefit plants by eating insects that do harm, such as fruit flies, aphids, and borers. Their "crime" is their nocturnal chirping, which is merely a subjective noise nuisance issue for some people. Subjective feelings, such as whether or not you like the sound of a chirping frog, should have no bearing on designating a species as a plant pest. And the HDOA does not deal with animal noise nuisance issues.
The HDOA is accepting comments on its proposed rule changes, including also expanding its powers to potentially add to their plant pest list any vertebrate species, or animal with a backbone. Until now, no vertebrates have been considered plant pests, and the coqui frog would be the first. But what's next? Pigs? Birds? Lizards? Every creature that eats could be considered a plant pest, if the HDOA gets its way. And this will give them license to enter private property to get whatever they want.
Please help us oppose this abuse of power. For more information about the coqui frog, go to www.HawaiianCoqui.org.