Last Thursday, DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina and allies testified at the Hawai’i State Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting against the transfer of the former Kulani prison land to the Hawaii National Guard for a Youth ChalleNGe Academy (YCA) and military training.
Testimony was overwhelmingly against the militarization of Kulani.
We scored two wins that day and had one setback.
First, the board approved protection for 6600 acres of pristine rain forest with the Natural Areas Reserve System designation, the highest level of protection for the environment.
Second, we stopped the proposed military training in the 600 acre Kulani site.
The setback: the board still approved 600 acres of the Kulani site to be transferred to the Hawaii National Guard to establish a military school. There was no community participation in determining the best and highest use for the area. Three people requested a contested case hearing. Senator Kokubun also said he opposed the closing of Kulani prison and was going to seek legislative remedies to either reopen the prison or reject the set aside of the land to the military.
The state erroneously stated that there were no other users for the land. But there are numerous programs that could utilize the facility and complement the conservation of the surrounding forest area in the culturally appropriate way. For example ‘Ohana Ho’opakele has requested to use areas in Kulani for a pu’uhonua ( a cultural-based healing center for substance abusers as an alternative to incarceration). Also, Native Hawaiian charter schools could align their curriculum with conservation efforts at a site in Kulani. But these options were precluded when the governor unilaterally decided to close Kulani prison and hand the land over to the military.
The Youth ChalleNGe project would be required to obtain a conditional use permit for using conservation land and an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, since it is federally funded.
Military use of Kulani nixed
by Jason Armstrong
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
State panel approves youth camp but not National Guard training
Military training should be prohibited on the former Kulani prison property, but a quasi-military program for at-risk teens and an expanded conservation area allowed.
Those are the recommendations the state Board of Land and Natural Resources made at its meeting Thursday in Honolulu.
The Hawaii Department of Defense had sought approval to operate a pistol range, conduct explosives and building-entry training, and perform helicopter evacuations involving up to 170 soldiers at one time. Those activities were to occur on approximately 600 acres of the old Kulani Correctional Facility site located about 20 miles south of Hilo.
The land board, however, amended the request to -explicitly prohibit military uses and training, said secretary Adaline Cummings.
In another Hawaii Tribune Herald article, State Representative Faye Hanohano shares her opposition to the closing of Kulani prison and transfer to the military:
A retired corrections officer, Hanohano heads the House Public Safety Committee. Her bill to audit the Department of Public Safety — emphasizing the closure of Kulani correctional facility and the state’s contracts that send local inmates to privately-run mainland facilities — was vetoed by Gov. Lingle. That spurred the majority leadership of both the House and Senate to send a letter to Legislative Auditor Marion Higa directing her audit DPS, anyway.
“The closing of Kulani should never have happened, with the military trying to take it over under the guise of the Youth ChalleNGe program,” she said. “… Now, you look at the (Tribune-Herald), you see a story that they want to do a training base center. That’s really unacceptable, because the military has lands that they’ve leased from the state, and at Pohakuloa.”
The state Land Board on Thursday denied the National Guard’s proposal for military training at Kulani by a 6-1 vote.