The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a temporary injunction to stop the U.S. Army from proceeding with construction, training and other activities related to conversion of the 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division into a brigade built around the 25-ton Stryker fighting vehicle. On October 5, 2006, the Court had ruled in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice, acting on behalf of Native Hawaiian organizations ‘lio’ulaokalani Coalition, Na ‘Imi Pono, and Kipuka, that the Army violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it failed to consider any location other than Hawai’i for its Stryker brigade. Despite the Court’s ruling, the Army announced plans to continue Stryker training in Hawai’i and to begin construction on November 1, 2006 of a Battle Area Complex for Strykers at Schofield Barracks in an area full of Native Hawaiian cultural sites, including recently re-discovered Hale’au’au Heiau (temple). The Army’s refusal to stop Stryker activities prompted the Native Hawaiian groups to file a motion last week seeking a temporary injunction from the Ninth Circuit, which the Court granted today. The Court stressed: “We should not permit Defendants to render meaningless our holding that they should have considered reasonable alternatives to transformation in Hawaii by allowing them to continue with their implementation plan.” The Ninth Circuit’s order will remain in effect pending a decision by the Hawai’i district court on future restrictions on Stryker activities in Hawai’i.
“We’re pleased the Court recognized the Army’s plans to plow ahead with Stryker conversion in Hawai’i before it even looked at other places where it could achieve its goals without destroying cultural sites violated both the law and common sense,” explained David Henkin, an attorney for Earthjustice who represents the Native Hawaiian groups. “The Army’s conduct was all the more outrageous since it told the Court that the Battle Area Complex, whose construction would destroy countless cultural sites, is not even one of the projects the Army deems ‘critical’ for training soldiers.”