A “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI) resulting from an environmental assessment (EA) was reported by the US Army in June 1986 for the construction and utilization of a multipurpose range complex (MPRC) at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii. There was little public response, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies were consulted and had few comments concerning the results of the botanical surveys used in the assessment. Construction of the $24 million project was begun in 1988. Near the end of construction in 1989 a lawsuit was filed to halt construction because an environmental impact statement (EIS) had not been done for the project, and the plaintiff thought that significant damage had occurred to several unusual ecosystems. Judgment was against the plaintiff and construction continued. An appeal was filed with the 9th Circuit Court. As MPRC construction was nearly complete, and on advice of Department of Justice lawyers, the Department of Army agreed to settle out of court. The settlement in part called for: (1) the plaintiff to drop the appeal and allow construction to be completed as scheduled, and (2) the Department of Army to prepare an EIS for the operation of the MPRC. A subsequent botanical survey for the EIS discovered one endangered plant species, four category 1 candidate plant species (taxa with sufficient data to support listing as endangered or threatened), three category 2 candidate plant species (taxa with some evidence of vulnerability but insufficient data to support listing at this time), one category 3a species (presumably extinct taxa), and possibly three undescribed species growing within the MPRC boundary. The MPRC case study is an excellent example of why the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must be modified to require in-depth and thorough environmental surveys.

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