Military push to renew state leases at Pohakuloa and 3 sites on Oahu

23,000-acres of Leased state lands are in light color on  right map below

84,000 acres at Pohakuloa in dark green (lower portion) on right map is seized lands via a Presidential executive order in 1964.

23,000 acres in top green area is Army purchased land from Parker Ranch in early 2000s.

Left map below shows Oahu military leased and seized lands.


Jim Albertini Malu 'Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action P.O. Box 489 Ola'a (Kurtistown) Hawai'i 96760
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By William Cole
Massive front page article on the US military’s push to renew leases to remain 30,000+ acres of leased state-owned land on Oahu and Big Island. 1,170 acres at the Kahuku Training Area, 4,370 acres at the Kawailoa/Poamoho Training Area and 760 acres at the Makua Military Reservation-6,300 acres on Oahu, which is about one-third of the 18,060 acres at the three sites.
The Big Island Pohakuloa Training Area on Big Island is huge-133,000 acres, with a 51,000 acre impact area, the largest live-fire range in Hawai’i. The Army wants to retain 23,000 acres of state leased land in Pohakuloa.
Comments by the public on these proposed leases are due by September 1 by emailing: or EIS Comments, PO Box 3444, Honolulu, HI 96801-3444 or via the project website.
Comments accepted at in-person public scoping meetings from 6-9pm Aug 10 and 11 at Leilehua Golf Course, with livestreaming at Recording services for comments available from 4-9pm on meeting dates by calling 808-556-8277.
Entire article:
By William Cole
The Army is undergoing its biggest modernization in 40 years.
The Marines are ditching their tanks. Missiles and missions linking sea, air, land, space and cyberspace — all at once — are the U.S. military’s future in the Indo-Pacific region.
Island-hopping operations are the new marching orders to deter China’s rapid military rise that is concentrated in the South and East China Seas and radiating economically across the Pacific.
Geographically, Hawaii is ideal to practice it all, officials say. And the U.S. military needs to improve quickly.
It’s in this pressure-cooker atmosphere — and with focus on the Indo- Pacific as the Pentagon’s “priority theater” — that the Army is trying to keep nearly 30,000 acres of training lands on Hawaii island and Oahu. The state land leases all expire in 2029.
A different aspect of that pressure comes from changing times — and increasing opposition to the type of $1, 65-year carte-blanche leases that were granted for the training lands not long after Hawaii gained statehood in 1959.
To keep the land, the Army knows it’s going to have to pay dearly, and it’s starting to strategize how to do so. More creativity already is being applied in terms of a possible land swap on Hawaii island instead of a straight lease.
The Army buying Bishop Museum’s 537 acres at Waipio Valley on Hawaii island’s north shore, which was previously for sale, and swapping it in some type of deal for 23,000 acres of Pohakuloa Training Area’s leased land, was suggested as one scenario.
On Oahu, the Army recently announced it is preparing an environmental impact statement for the proposed retention of up to 6,300 acres of state-owned leased land, including 1,170 acres at the Kahuku Training Area, 4,370 acres at the Kawailoa/Poamoho Training Area and 760 acres at the Makua Military Reservation.
The total is about a third of the 18,060 acres of U.S. government and state-owned training lands at the three Oahu sites.
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The Army is hoping to continue using 6,300 acres of state-owned leased land on Oahu, including 760 acres at Makua Military Reservation. Pictured above, soldiers conduct an exercise in Makua Valley.
Last year, the Army said it was preparing an EIS to consider retaining 23,000 acres in the middle of Pohakuloa, a training range the service maintains is critical for military readiness in the Pacific. The tract connects to 110,000 acres of adjacent U.S. government-owned land on either side.
“Our training needs are rapidly evolving and Hawaii’s land, air and sea space remain an ideal training ground capable of providing the realistic scale and other conditions to prepare our forces for high-end combat,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Mark Hashimoto, mobilization assistant to the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
The readiness being built up in Hawaii “is a major component of our ability to deter malign actors in the region,” Hashimoto said in an email, without mentioning China. “An aspect of our evolving training needs is the increasingly more important requirement to closely integrate with our allies and partners, and Hawaii’s location is ideal for this.”
BUT IT’S not only a pivot point for U.S. military training, it’s a pivot societally in Hawaii away from the type of state leases that were given away decades ago in tandem with presidential executive orders. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 referred to the “authority vested in me” by the admission of Hawaii to the union to set aside 84,000 acres of lands at Pohakuloa for use by the United States and 3,236 acres at the Makua Military Reservation.
Makua, in Leeward Oahu, encompasses about 4,190 acres total, while Pohakuloa is about 133,000 acres.
“We’ve seen the protests at Mauna Kea, the protectors movement; there is kind of a pivot within the Hawaiian movement — young people getting involved and taking back power, taking back a vision of the future — and Pohakuloa is a part of that, Makua is a part of that,” said Kyle Kajihiro, with Hawaii Peace and Justice.
According to its website, the group advocates for environmental and cultural preservation, self-determination and human rights, and also supports “grassroots struggles that resist the destructive impacts of war and militarization and unjust social and economic policies.”
Kajihiro wants the state leased land to be used for nonmilitary purposes.
“I think we have an opportunity, a rare opportunity now, to get land back to turn it around and start restoring these lands,” he said.
The “national security” argument “is always meant to trump every other kind of concern, and it’s often a fig leaf for imperial adventures — inserting military forces into other lands,” Kajihiro said.
U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, a Native Hawaiian and lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard from Hilo, whose father worked at Pohakuloa, said around the time of his election last year that he would bring “a unique perspective” as only the second Native Hawaiian elected to Congress since statehood.
“Where we are at right now within the Hawaiian community is we are at a crossroads,” including debate over the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, protests over windmills on Oahu, and ongoing issues with the former Navy target isle of Kahoolawe and military exercises at Pohakuloa, the Hawaii Democrat said at the time.
Pohakuloa, along with the rest of the military bases and personnel throughout the islands, are “very important not just for defense and national security of our country but also for our local jobs,” he said.
“Does that mean we can’t find a balance? Does that not mean the military needs to be proper stewards of the land that they are training on, that they are still able to train but doing it in a capacity where they are cognizant and mindful of the host culture and the land and the aina that they’re training on?”
He added that “these are conversations that we still need to have.”
“How we have treated both of those areas (Mauna Kea and Pohakuloa Training Area), how we structured those leases over the last 50 years, is not a blueprint for the future,” Kahele said.
THE ARMY, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard and Army Reserve use Pohakuloa, a range the Army calls the “Pacific’s premier training area.”
It has a 51,000-acre “impact area” and is the largest live-fire range in Hawaii, supporting full-scale combined arms field training from the squad to brigade (3,500 soldiers or more) level.
The impact area is used for helicopter-door gunnery, fixed-wing bombing, missile firing and artillery fire.
Pohakuloa is the primary training area for Marines in Hawaii.
The 23,000 acres of stateowned land “contain utilities, critical infrastructure, maneuver land, and key training facilities, some of which are not available elsewhere in Hawaii,” the EIS notice said. The area includes 79 firing points, a “battle area complex” and airstrip for drones.
Loss of the land would “substantially impact” the ability of the Army and other services to meet training requirements, the notice said.
Adm. Phil Davidson, the former head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said in March that the most effective way to combat security challenges in the region and demonstrate resolve “is through a continuous campaign of joint experimentation and high-fidelity, multidomain training.”
He said the U.S. was pursuing the development of linked training ranges including Pohakuloa, the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, the Reagan test site on Kwajalein Atoll, the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and others.
A $2 million authorization in fiscal 2021 for the Pacific Multi-Domain Test and Experimentation Capability is a step toward the network of training ranges from the West Coast of the U.S., across the Pacific, to Japan and Australia, Davidson said.
Officials say the Army is approaching lease renegotiations at Pohakuloa with greater sensitivity to cultural and land use concerns and has brought military leaders and Native Hawaiian elders together through “kahoahoa” mediation. The service also has taken steps to consider agriculture access on unused portions of the sprawling training area.
The Army is looking at what might be attractive to the state in terms of land swaps to obtain the 23,000 acres or help with infrastructure costs for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands projects.
“Training lands in Hawaii are critical to readiness, and not just for our Army but to other civil and military components. One of the greatest benefits they offer is ensuring we develop forces that can deter threats in the region,” said Brig. Gen. Joe Ryan, the new commander of the 25th Infantry Division. “But I appreciate there are valid concerns about these leased training lands, and there are two sides to this story.”
He noted that the EIS process will look at the impacts of alternatives “and we look forward to working with the entire community on the way ahead.”
THE Pohakuloa options include full retention of 23,000 acres, keeping 20,000 acres, or “minimum retention and access.” Alternatives under consideration on Oahu include utilizing all or lesser amounts of state land at Makua, Kahuku and Kawailoa.
Makua Valley was used for artillery and other “combined arms” live fire, but a series of environmental lawsuits resulted in no live fire in the valley since 2004.
The military still uses Makua for unmanned aerial vehicle practice, troop maneuvers, convoys and helicopter attack simulations. The EIS notice said that if the Army proposes a resumption of live fire there, it would be subject to separate analysis.
The Army said it uses Kawailoa for “low-altitude helicopter flight training.” State Rep. Amy Perruso (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Poamoho) takes issue with the usage claim.
“The terrain is too treacherous” for ground training, she said. “They just control it because they can.”
As for extending all the state leases, “I think the clearest example is with the parcel that’s in my district (Kawailoa), so I’ll speak to that, although I think frankly all of that training land should be returned (to the state) because I think that land is being damaged and desecrated.”
She added that “my personal perspective is we shouldn’t be using ceded, stolen lands to train people to kill other people,” a reference to Hawaiian kingdom lands that were “ceded” to the Republic of Hawaii and then to the United States.
On the flip side of that coin, Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin, the commander of Pohakuloa, said that ultimately, training at the big range “saves lives by preparing service members to achieve the highest standards possible before they are called into harm’s way.”
“These high standards include live-fire exercises to ensure our service members are familiar with their weapons and are prepared to overcome any obstacle on the battlefield,” he said. “PTA provides for this posture of readiness to occur from one of the most strategic locations in the entire Pacific Basin, and as such, the Army considers it essential for the safety and security of our troops and the defense of our homeland.”