OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Mauna Kea

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

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 publicly 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 in 2017 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 other Mauna Kea issues.

OHA’s Mauna Kea Lawsuit:

Mauna Kea Resources:

OHA Media on Mauna Kea

OHA Press Releases and Statements

Issues

  • UH’s Administrative Rules for Mauna Kea (NEW)

OHA submitted formal testimony to the University of Hawaiʻi stating that the University’s proposed administrative rules for Maunakea “fall short” of ensuring appropriate stewardship for the sacred mountain.

Enacted in 2009, Act 132 authorizes the University of Hawaiʻi’s Board of Regents (UH BOR) to adopt administrative rules to regulate “public and commercial activities” for its Maunakea lands. The law also requires the UH BOR to consult with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) in developing these administrative rules.

The UH BOR will consider the latest draft of the proposed administrative rules on Aug. 30.

  • Proposed New Mauna Kea Management Authority

During the 2018 Legislative Session, lawmakers considered establishing a new authority to manage Mauna Kea. Ultimately, no legislation was enacted.

Miscellaneous

Quotes on 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
  • “Recently some members mentioned how fortunate Hawaii had been chosen to facilitate the Mauna Kea observatories, our own ‘White Mountain’ above all others in the world. Others said progress is good but ‘no more building.’ The mountain should not be ‘over crowded;’ it may bring more building. The mountain should not be ‘over crowded;’ it may bring more cars, and outsiders who do not have good ‘manaʻo’ (thoughts) about preserving the valuable history of the mountain.” – Waimea Hawaiian Civic Club representatives about their members thoughts on Mauna Kea, January 27, 1980
  •  “[UH’s] focus on telescope construction on Mauna Kea’s summit propelled the site into a premier location for astronomical research. However, this emphasis was at the expense of neglecting the site’s natural resources.” – Hawaiʻi State Auditor, February 1998
  • “From a cumulative perspective, the impact of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities on cultural resources on Mauna Kea is substantial and adverse.” – National Aeronautics and Space Administration, February 2005
  • “[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

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