The state has issued cease and desist orders to four Hawaii County men for the unlawful removal of tons of lava rock from the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve.
State Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers issued the orders last week to the men who have been identified as the primary individuals who cracked large chunks of pahoehoe lava, stacked it, and then trucked it out of the forest reserve to sell to hotels and homes for decorative boundaries, walls and fireplaces.
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According to DLNR, the men all admitted their roles in the unlawful removal of the lava rock.
“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,” said DOCARE Officer Edwin Shishido, who has been leading a team of officers in the investigation, in a news release. “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.”
On a recent patrol of the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve, officers found numerous stacks of rock — some up to five feet high and 20 to 30 feet long, ready to be moved.
At one time, DLNR said at least one of the men had a permit from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to conduct commercial rock collection, but it expired about eight years ago and was not reissued.
Signs at the entrance road and on Mauna Loa Forest Reserve clearly prohibit any commercial activity without a permit, including the damage or removal of natural features, historic, or prehistoric remains.