Introduction to Bellows 1995 Environmental Impact Statement

Thanks to attorney H. William Burgess and Mrs. Sandra Puanani Burgess for the following content, taken from their website from the webpage



The Bellows Air Force Station Environmental Impact Statement


Hawaiian Claims to the Military's Ceded Lands


In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993 (Public Law 102-484), section 2853, Congress directed the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Secretary of the Navy to prepare a report on the continued military need for Bellows Air Force Station, Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawai'i. The report was submitted to Congress by the Secretary of Defense on April 19, 1993. In the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1993 (Public Law 102-396), Title II, Congress appropriated funds for the "conduct of an Environmental Impact Study at Bellows Air Force Base". The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its implementing regulations were used as the framework for the study, and the product was entitled "Land Use and Development Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement for Bellows Air Force Station, Waimanalo, Hawai'i".


The document was principally concerned with various proposed land use changes, including improved recreational facilities, new family housing, expanded Marine Corps training and identification of land which might be released for non-military uses. However, at public "scoping" meetings held during the early stages of planning in order to identify issues which the EIS should address, a number of people (including one member of Hawai'i's Congressional delegation) noted that most of the land at Bellows AFS was "ceded land" and asserted that "Native Hawaiians" (referring generally to persons descended from the inhabitants of the islands before the discovery of Hawai'i by Captain James Cook in 1778) had special rights or interests in these lands. Some commenters asked that Native Hawaiians be given a special voice in decisions about the future of Bellows AFS; others stated that the lands should be immediately "returned" to "Native Hawaiians".


As a result of these comments, the military undertook a detailed study of the chain of title supporting the military's claim to ownership of these lands as well as the claims that Native Hawaiians have special rights or interests in these lands. The chain of title was clear and unremarkable, and showed that all the parcels at Bellows, both the ceded lands and the parcels which had been acquired from prior owners, had passed by proper documentation to the military.


In spite of this, the military went further and sought out whether any basis might exist for the Native Hawaiian claims. In Section 6.6 of the Draft EIS, the military announced its tentative conclusion that there was no merit to these claims, and that at least since the time of the Great Mahele of 1848, "Native Hawaiians", as a group defined by race or ancestry, had no claims of any sort to the lands which would eventually become the ceded lands.


Some of those who submitted comments on the Draft EIS objected to the military's conclusions concerning the Native Hawaiian claims to the ceded lands at Bellows, and their comments were addressed with care in the Final EIS.

Steven Kubota's letter of May 9, 1995 addressed several elements of the Draft EIS; his comments concerning Section 6-6 were as follows:


Land title issues in the DEIS completely ignore the ramifications of the US Apology to Native Hawaiians (P.L. 103-150). This is a major omission and an insult to native Hawaiians.
The sole argument in the DEIS rests on the U.S. Claims Court decision in 1910 (Liliuokalani v. U.S.) (6-10). The DEIS quotes the court as saying:
"The Crown lands were the resourceful methods of income to sustain, in part at least, the dignity of the office to which they were inseparably attached. When the office ceased to exist (emphasis added), they became as other lands of the Sovereignty and passed to the defendants (U.S.) as part ond parcel of the public domain."
By ignoring the fact that "the office ceased to exist" because of the illegal actions of sugar planters, descendants of missionaries, financiers and representatives of the US government, the preparers of the DEIS have attempted to discredit the testimonies of the many people who questioned the military's title to Bellows AFS.
References to sugar plantations (2-5, 2-6, etc.) omit the fact that the US government admitted to the complicity of representatives of the sugar plantations in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy.
Land title issues should not demean the claims of native Hawaiians and should be re-evaluated in light of the US Apology.


The military responded to these and other comments of Mr. Kubota in a letter from Melvin N. Kaku, Director of the Environmental Planning Division of the Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, dated 26 October 1995. Enclosure (1) to that letter, entitled "Response to Comment 1", consisted of a detailed explanation of the military's position on the Native Hawaiian claims to the military's ceded lands, with references to and quotations from historical and legal documents. It also explained in depth why the Apology Resolution, Public Law 103-150, had no bearing on the issue.


Mr. Anthony Sang, President of the Waimanalo Hawaiian Homes Association also submitted written testimony which received a detailed response. Mr. Sang's comments are too lengthy to set out here, but they are summarized in Mr. Kaku's letter responding to the comments of Mr. Sang.


After considering these and other comments, the military concluded that its original conclusions were valid, and it republished them, with additional points concerning the Apology Resolution, in Section 6.6 of the Final EIS.




You may now