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There ought to be a law.

If Hawaii's native flora and funa are in trouble, you can be sure Hawaii's delegation to the U.S. Congress knows it. Three pieces of federal legislation to protect the Hawaiian ecosystem passed during the congressional session that ended Oct. 8, and staff aides are preparing another for introduction during the next Congress, which begins in January.

One of the pieces of legislation - the Alien Species Prevention and Enforcement Act - was folded at the last minute into the fiscal year 1993 combined spending bill for the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Postal Service and has already Bush. The alien species provision directs postal service employees to investigate any Hawaii-bound mail they suspect contains alien plants or animals. It also strengthens the ability of federal and state agencies to work together in catching individuals who bring alien plants and animals into Hawaii.

"Little by little, we're throwing an alien species safety net around the Hawaiian islands," says Margaret Cummisky, an aide to Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), a cosponsor of the original alien species bill.

Yukio Kitagawa, chairman of Hawaii's agriculture department, calls the new law "a major breakthrough for preventing harmful alien species from entering our islands." He says the law implements some of the recommendations made in a report on the Hawaiian alien species problem released last August by the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii and the Natural Resources Defense Council's local branch (SN: 8/15/92, p.101).

Congress also passed the Hawaii Tropical Forest Recovery Act, which would allow Hawaii to tap the resources of federally funded international tropical forestry programs. In addition, the lawmakers established a humpback whale sanctuary in Hawaii as part of an omnibus bill authorizing several international fishing agreements.

Next year, members of the Hawaiian delegation plan to introduce the Hawaiian Native Ecosystem Act, a bill that would implement a "10-point action plan" drafted last year by the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii. The agencies' recommendations include calls for incentives to encourage private landowners to protect native species, new programs to increase the public's awareness of extinctions and the dangers of alien species, and increased funding for conservation programs.

The congressional Office of Technology Assessment is preparing a report on non-indigenous species in the United States that will highlight some of Hawaii's unique problems. Study director Phyllis Windle says the report is scheduled for release next spring.
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Title Annotation:Cover Story; new law protects Hawaii from alien plants and animals sent by mail
Author:Ezzell, Carol
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 7, 1992
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