Today, Native Hawaiian groups notified the U.S. Army that its refusal to address the impacts of stationing a Stryker brigade in Hawai'i on sacred sites and endangered species at Makua Military Reservation (MMR) on O'ahu violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The groups sent the notice in response to the Army's February 2008 final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Stryker brigade, which merely claimed the brigade would not need to train at MMR.
"The Army ignores that stationing the brigade here will have the domino effect of forcing other military units to train at Makua, leading to the destruction of sacred sites and endangered species," said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represents the organizations Malama Makua, 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition, and Na 'Imi Pono. "NEPA prohibits the Army from covering up these significant threats to Hawai'i's cultural and natural heritage."
In the final EIS for the Stryker brigade, the Army stated that, if the brigade were not stationed in Hawai'i, a training facility to replace MMR could be constructed in the footprint of a proposed Stryker battle area complex at Pöhakuloa Training Area on the island of Hawai'i. Earlier Army documents indicate a replacement for MMR could also be built at Schofield Barracks on O'ahu, but only if proposed Stryker facilities were not built.
The Army failed to respond to community concerns the Army's preferred alternative -- stationing the Stryker brigade in Hawai'i -- would seal MMR's fate by leaving the Army with no alternate locations for live-fire training that threatens to destroy MMR's scores of ancient cultural sites and dozens of critically endangered species. NEPA requires the Army to disclose such "indirect" impacts of stationing a Stryker brigade in Hawai'i, but, to date, it has failed to do so.
"The Army's trying to hide what we all know is going to happen," said 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition president Vicky Holt Takamine. "Overflow from Stryker training is going to end up at Makua."
"For six years, at public hearing after public hearing, we've been focusing on the connection between the Stryker brigade and training at Makua, and the Army has always tried to dodge the issue," said Na 'Imi Pono spokesperson William Aila. "The Army's strategy of ignoring community concerns about Makua in the hope they'll go away isn't going to work. If the Army doesn't provide full disclosure about the effect of stationing the Stryker brigade here on Makua's future, we'll see them in court."
In 2004, 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition and Na 'Imi Pono, represented by Earthjustice, sued the Army over its refusal to consider locations outside Hawai'i where the Stryker brigade could be stationed with less environmental harm. In October 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed the Army violated NEPA and ordered the Army to evaluate stationing alternatives. Release of the final EIS on February 22, 2008 triggered a thirty-day public review period. The Army may not make a final decision on stationing the Stryker brigade until March 24, 2008.
"We deserve the truth," said Malama Makua president Sparky Rodrigues. "The Army knows the people of Hawai'i want Makua back, so it's trying to hide the fact that keeping the Stryker brigade here means military training once again is going to bomb and burn Makua's sacred sites and endangered species. If the Army sees things differently and thinks it can still find a replacement for training at Makua with the Stryker brigade here, it needs to say so."
In 2000, Malama Makua, represented by Earthjustice, sued the Army over its failure to prepare an EIS for military training at MMR, including its failure to consider alternate locations where training could be conducted with less damage. In 2001, the Army entered into a consent decree that required preparation of an EIS for MMR by October 4, 2004. The Army still has not completed the MMR EIS.