4 Hawai‘i Island Men Ordered to Stop Taking Lava Rocks from Reserve
Video of rock piles, DOCARE patrols and interview. VC: DLNR
May 13, 2018: Earlier this week, four Hawai‘i County men received cease and desist orders from DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers for lava rock removal.
The men all admitted their roles in the unlawful removal of tons of lava rock from the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve.
DOCARE officers believe the men are the primary individuals who are cracking large chunks of pāhoehoe lava, stacking it in place, and then taking it out of the forest reserve by the truckload to sell to hotels and homes for rock boundary and decorative walls and fireplaces.
At one time, at least one of the men had a permit from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to conduct commercial rock collection, but officers say it expired about eight years ago and was not reissued.
DOCARE Officer Edwin Shishido has been leading a team of officers investigating what he calls theft of state natural resources.
“It appears they go in, crack the lava—all the flat rocks, the really nice ones, and when they don’t see any law enforcement officers around, they’ll load it up into pickup trucks and onto flatbed trailers and just leave,” Shishido said.
On a recent patrol of the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve, officers found evidence of numerous stacks of rocks: some five-feet high and 20 to 30 feet long ready to be moved.
Shishido added, “These guys were getting anywhere from $800 to $1,000 for a load of rock, often selling it to commercial properties and residential homeowners in Waikoloa and other places on the Big Island.”
The Mauna Loa Forest Reserve features a sweeping vista of lava on the eastern slopes of Mauna Loa. Signs at the entrance road and on the mountain clearly prohibit any commercial activity without a permit, including “Damaging or removal of natural features, historic, or prehistoric remains.”
State conservation officers acknowledge that there is a seemingly endless supply of lava on the mountain, but say lava rock removal by creating new roads off the main road and physically cracking the rock is damaging the natural resources and scarring the landscape. They say they’ve consulted with Hawaiian cultural practitioners who disagree with the practice of making money off natural resources that they say should be left alone and in place.