In a stunning turnaround from his failed attempt to appoint Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Governor David Ige today named Nature Conservancy of Hawaii Executive Director Suzanne Case to head the agency.
“Suzanne shares my vision of wise stewardship of Hawaii’s public and conservation lands and waters, for excellence in government to make the most of our limited resources, and for collaboration and inclusion in carrying out the many responsibilities of the DLNR and the State of Hawaii for the benefit of all,” said Ige in a statement released today.
Case (a sister of former U.S. Representative Ed Case) has worked for the Nature Conservancy for 28 years, the last dozen as its executive director. The organization protects about 200,000 acres of Hawaii–an impressive figure, though just a fraction of the 1.3 million acres that fall under the DLNR’s jurisdiction.
“Conservation cannot promise a return to pristine, prehuman landscapes,” Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist, and Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz wrote in the 2012 article “Conservation in the Anthropocene.” “Humankind has already profoundly transformed the planet and will continue to do so… [C]onservationists will have to jettison their idealized notions of nature, parks and wilderness—ideas that have never been supported by good conservation science—and forge a more optimistic, human-friendly vision.”
For a governor whose previous choice to head the state’s land resources management department was a development lobbyist, the Nature Conservancy is the best possible source in Hawaii for a friendly environmental face.
Still, the initial reaction to Case’s appointment from within the state’s environmental community seems to be positive. At a press conference before Ige’s Jan. 26 State of the State Address, Conservation Council of Hawaii Executive Director Marjorie Ziegler derided Ching for his “demonstrated lack of expertise and interest even in any of the programs that come under the purview of the DLNR.” But when asked about Case, Ziegler was far more positive.
“I’m definitely heartened by it,” Ziegler told me. “She’s very different than Carleton Ching. She has much stronger administrative skills–the Nature Conservancy is a huge organization, and managing land is a very complicated business. I’m also encouraged, and it’s really nice to see the governor make good on his campaign promise to appoint more women because commissions and boards don’t always look like the communities they reflect.”
Photo of Suzanne Case: John DeMello