By Rita Hess (AEC Contractor)August 21, 2019
With training land at a premium, every acre matters. Such is the case for the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Spanning the Hawaiian Islands, the HIARNG manages 14 installations encompassing nearly 1,300 acres. Two of the largest HIARNG installations are the Keaukaha Military Reservation (KMR) at 504 acres and the Fort Ruger Installation at 325 acres. Fort Ruger is located within the iconic Diamond Head Crater, which is registered as a National Monument and Military Historic District.
Balancing the rich culture of the islands with HIARNG's mission and readiness is critical and serves as the primary focus of the HIARNG cultural resources management (CRM) program. Rather than simply preserving artifacts from the past, cultural preservation in Hawaii is also a matter of preserving the aina (land) and natural resources tied to Hawaiian culture.
The HIARNG CRM program's creative efforts toward that goal earned a 2019 Secretary of the Army environmental award for cultural resources management in the small installation category.
"The greatest threat to cultural sites is invasive forest species, which overgrow the areas and make them inaccessible," said Craig Blaisdell, Natural Resources Supervisor.
"Here, degradation of native forests is in itself a degradation of Hawaiian cultural values and resources. Invasive species are also a great threat to readiness, making training spaces impenetrable. Managing them and restoring our native forests are objectives we must handle responsibly and respectfully."
The KMR installation located on the east side of Hawaii Island contains some of the most endangered lowland wet forest ecosystems in the world. This native forest system is home to endangered species, including the Hawaiian Hoary Bat and Hawaiian Hawk, as well as the culturally significant native ohia lehua tree. Like many locations, KMR struggles with declining native species and invasions by aggressive invasive plants that rapidly change the forest ecosystem. Preservation of its native forest affects Soldier access and ecological stability.
Additionally, the forest is itself a cultural resource, deeply tied to the traditions and heritage of Native Hawaiians. Thus, the HIARNG is helping eradicate invasive species on KMR, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) helps, too, with a focused CRM component.
In a collaborative agreement, the installation initiated Liko na pilina, which means "growing new partnerships or relationships" in the Hawaiian language. Students from a local charter school visit the training site to work on research projects in the classroom, lab, and field.
In the field, they follow Hawaiian cultural protocols, such as oli, a chant requesting permission to enter the forest to observe and collect data. During every field excursion, students sit quietly and kilo (reflect) on their observations and the significance of their learning.
At a year-end event, they present their findings speaking only Hawaiian. From beginning to end, the program immerses students in the Hawaiian cultural and language, while incorporating rigorous scientific training.
The university contributes thousands of hours to students, providing them an opportunity for mentorship that continues through high school and college. The Liko na pilina project represents a tremendous investment in community outreach and education, as well as integration of natural and cultural resources management, which benefits the HIARNG.
The HIARNG's CRM program had an opportunity to build relationships with property managers and stakeholders for a project at Diamond Head Crater, which involved the demolition of several historic buildings. The project benefitted the HIARNG by disposing of unoccupied and unusable buildings, while also benefiting the Division of State Parks (DLNR-DSP) by transferring 7 acres of land for future use by visitors to Diamond Head State Park.
The CRM program established a Memorandum of Agreement with several agencies--including the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD), DLNR-DSP, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs--to mitigate for the demolition of two Cold War-era building inside Diamond Head Crater, which is jointly managed by the HIARNGand the DLNR-DSP.. Successful resolution required ongoing communication and coordination between HIARNG and DLNR-DSP, which resulted in creative mitigation and money savings for the HIARNG.
Relationships with stakeholders and regulators demonstrated the CRM program's transparency and willingness to pursue the spirit, rather than the letter, of compliance laws. Through ongoing meetings and coordination with SHPD, HIARNG and DLNR-DSP; mitigation measures included Historic American Building Survey (HABS) documentation of the buildings, integration of Cold War-era history into the Park's audio tour for visitors to Diamond Head, in-house monitoring of ground disturbing work and a joint effort to expand the 1984 Historic District Nomination Form to be more inclusive of all military resources within Diamond Head Crater. The mitigation efforts were carried out by in-house staff, which saved thousands of dollars by utilizing HIARNG and DLNR-DSP's CRM staff.
The CRM program hopes to continue integrating its natural resources stewardship goals with its cultural resources management program through partnerships and outreach. The program plans to continue early and often communication with stakeholders and regulators to ensure mission readiness success stories.