Army should stop high altitude training on Mauna Kea

The Honolulu Star Advertiser editorial calls on the Army to complete a full environmental impact statement for its High Altitude Mountainous Environment Training (HAMET) on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa:

Training flights for Army helicopter crews scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan in January have been approved on Hawaii island. Nonetheless, in the wake of poorly coordinated efforts to ensure that the Army complied with state environmental laws, it makes sense for the state to seek a full environmental impact statement before future high-altitude training takes place on Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

Given the convoluted history of the military’s use of sensitive environmental areas, it’s a reasonable condition that could help both sides.

However, the EIS process only gives the public a chance to get information about the project and its potential impacts and to give input.  The perfect EIS could still result in disastrous environmental impacts as long as the process was followed correctly. This has been the experience with the military in Hawai’i.  There are no teeth for the public to actually stop an unacceptably destructive or harmful project.

The story of the military in Hawai’i is a litany of environmental disasters imposed undemocratically upon communities.  The government has already predetermined the outcome of the process.   The media uncritically accepts the premise:

Certainly there’s little doubt that such training for high-altitude combat in Afghanistan is currently necessary. Also, the Army has been training on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa for years.

Why does the mainstream media not question the premise?   High-altitude training supports an illegal and immoral war in Afghanistan.   This training would not be ‘necessary’ if the U.S. withdrew.    In the past, Army helicopter training was done without public review or hearing.  The issue only came to light when forestry staff became frustrated that Army helicopters flew and landed in restricted areas in violation of temporary right of access permits.

The Army can avoid an EIS and save money, the environment and lives by stopping the HAMET trainings and withdrawing from Afghanistan.

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