The state says four men have admitted to removing tons of lava rock from the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve on Hawaii Island.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, or DOCARE, gave the men cease and desist orders this week.

DOCARE officers say the men were illegally cracking large chunks of pahoehoe lava, stacking it, and then hauling it by the truckload to sell to hotels and home builders for rock boundaries, decorative walls, and fireplaces.

DOCARE Officer Edwin Shishido said, “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.”

“These guys were getting anywhere from $800 to $1000 for a load of rock, often selling it to commercial properties and residential homeowners in Waikoloa and other places on the Big Island,” Shindo added.

The state says at least one of the men did have a permit to do commercial rock collection at one time, but that expired eight years ago and the state stopped issuing those permits.

A new rules package will be presented to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

If approved, it would make it illegal to remove rocks for commercial purposes without having a written permit. The new rule would limit the total dollar value of materials that can be taken.