Part of the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii’s mission is to be good stewards of the lands entrusted to them. That means protecting and preserving our fragile environments for future generations. Yes, it is a fine line for the Army to balance that with its own needs for training, but it has been successful especially in our most valued asset – land.

Today, the 1,875 acres of Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu remains an untouched ahupua’a with native plants, animals and native artifacts, sites and shrines. It was almost an area that would’ve been developed with homes. Back in 2000, a New York developer submitted an offer to buy Waimea Valley with plans to build homes and an ecological camp. Long story short, several city, federal, state, Hawaiian, and environmental agencies and organizations got together and bought Waimea for $14.1 million. One of those groups, the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, contributed $3.5 million.

U.S. Army helicopter in Iraq, 2007

The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Commander flies a Kiowa (OH-58) during a recent mission in the area of Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2007.

Flickr: The U.S. Army

“There are people who distrust the government and the Army in particular,” said Col. Howard Killian, then-commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii. “This opportunity enables us to reach out and work on common goals. It’s great to be in a position where you can make decisions that will certainly outlast you and are important for the community.”

The Army used money from a new program called Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration, Army Compatible Use Buffer Program. It gave them funding to provide buffers around active training areas. REPI promotes innovative land conservation solutions that benefit military readiness, neighboring communities, and the environment.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs now owns Waimea Valley through a non-profit limited liability company, Hiʻipaka LLC, ensuring the protection and preservation of cultural and natural resources. It was the Garrison’s first success, and definitely not the last:

• More than 3,700 acres in Moanalua Valley.

• More than 1,100 acres in Pupukea.

• More than 3,500 acres at the Honouliuli Forest Reserve.

• And most recently, more than 1,700 acres in central Oahu from the Galbraith Estate.

The Galbraith Estate purchase is one that is near and dear to our hearts conserving former pineapple plantation lands near Wahiawa for agriculture:

• Over 1,200 acres are now owned by the State Agribusiness Development Corporation which has leased the land to small and large-scale local farmers that is spurring local food security for Hawaii.

• Over 500 acres surrounding one of the most important cultural sites on the island, Kūkaniloko (the birthing stones of the chiefs/aliʻi) are now owned by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

• The $25 million purchase would not have been possible without the Army’s partnership and contribution of $4.5 million, in addition to State, City, OHA, and private funding.

• The Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawa is working with OHA to develop a curatorship program.

The Army has served and continues to help us in many ways. It’s always the first to respond. Now, it’s our turn.

A proposal is looking to eliminate nearly 20,000 soldiers and civilians from Schofield and Fort Shafter. Forcing soldiers to leave the island might sound like a good thing. But it’s far from the truth. Check the facts at keephawaiisheroes.org.

 

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Authors