"I'm glad that the military has chosen to seek common ground with the community in the spirit of our 2001 agreement," said Malama Makua board member Sparky Rodrigues, citing the settlement in 2001 of a previous Malama Makua lawsuit, in which the Army agreed to limit training and prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). "We've said all along we prefer no training at Makua and the eventual clean-up and return of the valley to a cultural and traditional use, but, following the spirit of the 2001 agreement, just want the military to respect the community, environment, and the law."
To address Malama Makua's concerns regarding the use of weapons that have a history of causing fires at MMR, such as mortars and rockets (both identified by the Army as posing a "medium" fire risk), the agreement restricts use of such weapons to times when the official "burn index," or fire danger rating, is in the "green" zone, defined as conditions presenting a "low" fire risk, in which "[w]eather conditions [are] favorable for all authorized munitions." The military may use "low" risk weapons, such as rifles and other small arms, as long as the burn index remains in the "green" or "yellow" ("medium" risk) zone. Other terms of the settlement include:
"These measures, particularly the restrictions on mortars and rockets, will go a long way toward ensuring that endangered species and critical habitat will not be destroyed while the consultation – whose focus is their protection – continues," said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. Henkin noted that, in December 2003 and January 2004, Malama Makua had agreed to limited training exercises during the consultation period. The group had no choice but to take the military to court when the Marines insisted on conducting training with mortars and rockets without adequate protections in place.
"We appreciate that the military has again agreed to work with the community to safeguard the precious natural heritage at Makua," said Malama Makua board member Fred Dodge. "I am hopeful that the military is learning. It is not too early to increase efforts to clean up the valleys, not only for endangered species and cultural sites, but also for the community's health."