Army Expansion threatens Sacred Summits

Posted by at Jan 13, 2011 05:05 PM |
The U.S. Army has announced plans to expand operations at Pohakuloa Training Area to include risky high-altitude helicopter training on the sacred slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Your voice is needed today!
Army Expansion threatens Sacred Summits

On our sacred summits?

UPDATE (6/30/11):  Abercrombie requires Army EIS for Attack Helicopter Training on Big Island! Read more >

UPDATE (4/26/11): A hard copy of the revised Environmental Assessment for HAMET (High Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training) and their Finding of No Significant Impact (seriously?) -- also known as a FONSI -- has been shipped to the Hilo, Waimea, and Kona libraries.

A digital copy is available at

The 30 day comment period ends May 23, 2011.

You can continue to express opposition by sending an email to William Rogers at

What's going on:  The U.S. Army is proposing to expand operations at Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) to include risky high-altitude helicopter training on the sacred slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

This type of high-altitude military training exercise caused a crash in the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve in 2003, where an irreplaceable cultural and natural area was damaged.

So far, the U.S. Army has done very little study on how these activities will impact vulnerable cultural and natural resources, endangered species, access, cultural practice, or hiking/recreation on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

The Army based some of its conclusions on the University of Hawai`i's contested 2009 development plan (for telescopes), which lacks the jurisdiction and the baseline studies to protect the summit from telescope construction or military expansion.

Public hearings on PTA military expansion were held:

1/11 (Tuesday) at Hilo Intermediate 6-9pm
1/12 (Wednesday) at Waimea Elementary and Intermediate 5:30-9p

Mahalo to all who attended!

You can find more details and talking points below. Please let the Army know that Hawai`i demands better for our sacred mountains.

More Information

Proposed Action: High-elevation, high-risk helicopter training exercises in the protected forest reserves of Mauna Kea

- The proposed project area encompasses the Kīpuka ‘Āinahou Nene Wildlife Sanctuary, Palila bird critical habitat, a Native bird flight corridor, game management areas, as well as the habitat for twenty-one plant, thirteen insect, and ten bird and mammal species under state and/ or federal protection.

- Similar attack helicopter training exercises in Hawai`i have resulted in numerous crashes, injuries and fatalities. In 2009, the CAB lost two pilots when their Kiowa Warrior helicopters took a “hard landing” and crashed in flames near Schofield Barracks. Two other army aviators died when their Cobra helicopter malfunctioned over Schofield in 1996.  Six soldiers (4 of whom were from the CAB) were killed and 11 injured when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a night training exercise over Kahuku in 2001.

Talking Points:

Environmental Assessment is Inadequate: The Army’s Environmental Assessment is not forthcoming about the threats expanded military exercises on Mauna Kea pose to Native Hawaiian rights, fragile ecosystems, nor to other recreational uses of the area. Nor does it detail mechanisms whereby the Army can be held accountable.

Require an Environmental Impact Statement: The Army must complete a full environmental impact statement -- not the minimal environmental assessment conducted so far -- on all of the Army training at PTA.  This EIS must include a cumulative impact assessment of all land uses threatening Mauna Kea (like the new giant telescope proposal).  The EA fails to adequately analyze: (1) noise impacts, (2) risks to recreational users, (3) threats to protected and endangered species in the project area.

Require a Cultural Impact Assessment: This EIS should also satisfy Hawaii’s state environmental reporting requirement for a cultural impact assessment. The Army's EA notes some historic properties of cultural significance in the landing zones.  Instead of studying these areas more closely, the Army's EA relies on the 2009 University of Hawaii Comprehensive Management Plan.

Mitigate Accidents:  This type of high-risk trainings have been linked to many accidents.  In 2003, the exact same kind of training resulted in a helicopter crash in the Mauna Kea Ice Age NARS.

As people who love and care for our beloved summits, your testimony can help to protect this area from the harms of these dangerous military exercises.  Please spread the word!

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