Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Activists protest plan for Stryker brigade
The group claims the new unit would cause environmental harm
A group of Hawaiian activists, environmentalists and religious leaders is opposing the Army’s proposal to base a Stryker combat brigade in Hawaii.
About a dozen members of DMZ-Hawaii/Aloha Aina called on community members yesterday to voice their concerns during Army hearings this week and next.
“We find that the military have not been good stewards of the land,” said kumu hula Victoria Holt-Takamine. “We do not think that there is a need for the state to offer more pristine, valuable land for military training. … Go and find somewhere else to take your Stryker brigade, and go and find someone else’s land to abuse and ruin.”
The Army is at the beginning of a 45-day public comment period on a 1,500-page draft environmental impact statement for the 19-ton armored vehicles.
The Army is proposing to deploy 300 eight-wheeled Strykers in Hawaii and build several live-fire ranges and other projects at a cost of nearly $700 million.
The Army also wants to acquire 23,000 acres on the Big Island and 1,400 acres next to Schofield Barracks for the Strykers.
To reorganize the Army, the Defense Department has proposed the creation of six 3,600-man Stryker brigade units, which will be lighter and more mobile than traditional armored forces. The first four units have been funded, while the last two units, proposed for Hawaii and Pennsylvania, are awaiting approval from the Army.
Kyle Kajihiro, program director for the American Friends Service Committee Hawaii Area Program, said the new Stryker brigade would increase the amount of munitions used in Hawaii by 25 percent, resulting in long-term environmental damage.
Kajihiro said the increased munitions will elevate the amount of hazardous chemicals at the training sites and could result in harm to endangered plant and animal species.
“The military’s environmental track record in Hawaii is abysmal,” Kajihiro said.
Army officials say they can achieve a balance that minimizes or eliminates the impact on Hawaii wildlife, vegetation and cultural resources while satisfying training needs for the Stryker brigade.
According to the Army’s draft statement, there are more than 60 threatened or endangered species at the 27,000-acre Schofield Barracks and its affiliated Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.