The retired Army colonel and local activist Ann Wright wants the state to end the use of Pohakuloa lava lands on Hawaii Island as a military training area that includes live fire.
Hawaii already has retired the Navy and Air Force from bombing Kahoolawe island and dismissed the Army from Makua Valley live fire on Oahu.
I guess the “aloha aina” people want the U.S. military to take its training to some other state — maybe California. Just not this state. They don’t want a rocket-launch site at South Point or TMT on Mauna Kea either. Just land to be looked at and not abused.
That’s a fine objective, just not totally practical in a practical world. If we’re going to close down all live fire ranges here, then we have to close down most all military installations here. Tourism and the military are currently our only substantial slices of an economy.
Pohakuloa doesn’t have any practical use. It’s part of state ceded lands between volcanoes and we leased it to the Army 56 years ago. We certainly should have demanded more than what we did — $65 for 65 years of use. Pretty ridiculous, huh? But that was in the middle of the Vietnam War and our 25th Division and the Kaneohe Marines were being sent there without much realistic training on artillery, tank movement and close air support.
Military use of the land is perfectly legal under the ceded lands laws, but the state is required to closely monitor the use and the court evidence has been that it has not. It left that to the Army. It policed itself.
There was a precedent for that. We had let the Marines use the training ground however they wanted during WWII when they were based just outside Waimea.
But since that time, weaponry changed dramatically and Pohakuloa would become tainted with unexploded bombs and shells and lots of depleted uranium rounds from tank fire when the 25th Division still had heavy armor units.
That’s not good and means the Army has not been a good steward of the land.
I’m not a subscriber to that local theory that some lands are “sacred” to Hawaiians or others. Some certainly were in early history when belief in gods and ghosts ignored science. But today? That’s mostly mumbo-jumbo that disguises a yearning for an earlier time of Native Hawaiian prevalence in these lands.
We do much more damage to our lands with almost-unrestricted housing development. Look at our formerly gorgeous Koolau hills on Oahu!
Pohakuloa likely needs better state supervision of clean-ups and kinds of usage and damage done.
But cancelling the lease is the true cutting off the nose to spite the face. We’d have to also live without the military and all the money Uncle Sam spends here yearly for military construction and civilian salaries.
Is that what you want?