US military says will end live-fire training in Hawaii’s Makua Valley
HONOLULU — The U.S. military has confirmed that it will permanently end live-fire training in Makua Valley on Oahu, a major win for Native Hawaiian groups and environmentalists after decades of activism.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth filed a statement with federal court in Hawaii on Friday affirming the military’s new stance that it would “no longer need to conduct live-fire training at (Makua Military Reservation), now or in the future,” Hawaii News Now reported.
Under the terms of a 2001 settlement, the military hasn’t conducted live-fire training at Makua Valley since 2004. But the court filing “removed the threat that Makua will ever again be subjected to live-fire training,” environmental nonprofit Earthjustice said in a news release.
Earthjustice has represented local activist group Malama Makua in its long-running legal dispute with the Army.
Makua Valley was the site of decades of live-fire military training. The training at times sparked wildfires that destroyed native forest habitat and sacred cultural sites, Earthjustice said.
The Makua Military Reservation spans nearly 5,000 acres. It is home to more than 40 endangered and threatened species and dozens of sacred and cultural sites, according to Earthjustice.
The military seized Makua Valley for training following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, “evicting Hawaiians with the promise that their lands would be cleaned up and returned,” said Malama Makua board member Sparky Rodrigues. “Almost 80 years later, we’re still waiting. Ending live-fire training is an important first step in undoing the wrongs of the past and restoring Makua — which means ‘parents’ in Hawaiian.”
Friday’s court filing came 25 years after Malama Makua sued the Army to compel compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The law requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of proposed federal actions.
In 2018, the Army agreed to restore access to cultural sites in the valley.
The state’s lease to the Army for its use of Makua Valley expires in 2029.