OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Photo: Mauna Kea Summit

There are currently 13 observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea, with one more planned. As part of their mismanagement of the mountain, the state and the university have failed to prudently negotiate sublease terms for observatories and failed to manage observatory development and decommissioning. A 1998 state audit found that UH did not allocate sufficient resources to protect Mauna Kea’s natural resources because it focused primarily on astronomy development. Photo: © sin_ok, stock.adobe.com

Mauna Kea

2019 Update

The commenting period on the University of Hawaiʻi’s latest draft of the proposed administrative rules on Mauna Kea is now open. The administrative rules aim to govern public and commercial activities on UH-managed lands. The deadline to submit comments is Friday, June 7, 2019.

Click here to see the draft rules from UH.

Click here to view the OHA testimony on the Mauna Kea admin rules.

2018 Legislation

House Bill 1985 Proposed SD1 would establish a Mauna Kea Management Authority (MKMA) to reform management, responsibility, and enforcement kuleana related to Mauna Kea lands. The primary purpose of creating the MKMA is to resolve long-standing and on-going concerns over the insufficient and unsatisfactory mismanagement of Mauna Kea by the University of Hawai‘i (UH) and the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). 

Learn more about House Bill 1985 Proposed SD1:

Fact Sheet

Mauna Kea is a deeply sacred place that is revered in Hawaiian traditions. It’s regarded as a shrine for worship, as a home to the gods, and as the piko of Hawaiʻi Island.

Mauna Kea is also a critical part of the ceded lands trust that the State of Hawaiʻi must protect and preserve for future generations, pursuant to its kuleana as a trustee.

Despite four state audits and generations of Native Hawaiians expressing concern about the threats to Mauna Kea, the state and the University of Hawaiʻi have continuously neglected their legal duties to adequately manage the mountain. Instead, they have prioritized astronomical development at the expense of properly caring for Mauna Kea’s natural and cultural resources.

As a result, the state and UH have failed as trustees and stewards of this beloved and sacred place. Even the governor and the university president have both publically admitted to failing to meet their management responsibilities.

OHA has long advocated for improved stewardship of the mauna and beginning in 2015 engaged the state and UH in a nearly two-year mediated process to resolve the mismanagement of Mauna Kea. Ultimately, this effort was not successful.

Left with no other recourse, OHA filed a lawsuit to advocate on behalf of the Native Hawaiian people to hold the state and UH accountable for its longstanding and well-documented mismanagement of Mauna Kea.

Among other things, OHA’s complaint requests the court to order the state fulfill its trust obligations relating to Mauna Kea and to terminate UH’s general lease for the mountain for breach of the lease’s terms.

This is not about any one telescope. This lawsuit is about addressing the state and the university failing to manage the entire mountain for nearly half a century.

This webpage is intended to provide updates and information about OHA’s lawsuit and the state’s continued mismanagement of Mauna Kea.



  • I am concerned that social pressures for more intensive use of Mauna Kea for scientific, recreational and other purposes pose a threat to the priceless qualities of that mountain. There are many legitimate and desirable uses which should be encouraged, and there may be some potential uses which must be either prohibited or closely controlled, if we are to preserve the historical sites and natural environment in the best possible manner.”  Governor George Ariyoshi, Nov. 1, 1974
  • “[T]he University of Hawaii’s management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve is inadequate to ensure the protection of natural resources. The university focused primarily on the development of Mauna Kea and tied the benefits gained to its research program. The university’s control over public access was weak and its efforts to protect natural resources were piecemeal. The university neglected historic preservation, and the cultural value of Mauna Kea was largely unrecognized.” – Hawaiʻi State Auditor, February 1998
  • [W]e have in many ways failed the mountain. Whether you see it from a cultural perspective or from a natural resource perspective, we have not done right by a very special place and we must act immediately to change that [.]”-  Governor David Ige, May 26, 2015
  • “[…] UH has not yet met all of [its] obligations to the mountain or the expectations of the community.” – UH President David Lassner and UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney, June 1, 2015

Despite several action items in the 2009 CMP, the state and UH failed to require mandatory visitor orientation, trainings, or briefings to explain the cultural significance of Mauna Kea, the appropriate behavior while on Mauna Kea, and the importance of preserving its cultural landscape. Moreover, as a result of their poor management, the state and UH failed to properly respond to safety incidents and accidents on Mauna Kea, failed to respond to unsafe, destructive, or inappropriate behavior on Mauna Kea, and failed to disclose public safety and health issues to the public, including fatalities.

233 ancient shrines have been identified on Mauna Kea, constituting what is probably the largest and arguably one of the most important complexes of “non-monumental” religious structures with stone uprights in Polynesia. The state and UH have failed to create an environment respectful of Mauna Kea’s cultural landscape, by among other things, inadequately implementing management actions in the 2009 CMP related to cultural resources and practices. For example, Kahu Kū Mauna and OHA have not been adequately consulted on a number of management actions  concerning cultural resources and practices. In addition, the state and UH have failed to establish a process for ongoing collection of information on traditional, contemporary and customary cultural practices. And, the state and UH have not yet developed a map based on updated inventories of natural and cultural resources that will guide future land use.


Photo: Colette Machado and Kamana‘opono Crabbe

Joint statement of OHA Chair Machado and OHA CEO Crabbe


OHA to host free agribusiness workshop in Hilo


OHA Board of Trustees approves $6 million for community grants


OHA approves $100,000 in event grants


OHA seeks community input on its upcoming biennium budget


Send this to friend