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Thursday, May 5, 2022
DLNR: Mauna Kea Bill Dangerous, Unconstitutional
By News Release @ 6:44 PM :: 2386 Views :: Hawaii County , Greenmail, Higher Education, OHA


News Release from DLNR, May 5, 2022

(HONOLULU) - The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) believes HB2024 CD1 is well-intentioned but leaves significant gaps that could result in worse management of Mauna Kea’s natural and cultural resources. Notably: 

  • This bill creates special laws for Mauna Kea separate from the State’s extensive legal framework for land management and natural and cultural resource management, beyond the oversight and control of the DLNR and the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). This is a dangerous legal precedent, contrary to our state constitution. 
  • HB2024 CD1 has no provision for Conservation District regulation to continue. Any construction or commercial use could potentially be authorized by the new Authority anywhere on the 11,307 acres of the mauna’s greater summit, under this bill. 
  • This bill requires the Authority to be financially self-sustaining. The lands on Mauna Kea are not revenue-generating lands. Requiring the Authority to be financially self-sustaining would lead to pressures to open conservation lands to commercial tourism. 
  • A moratorium on new leases until 2028 will make it very difficult to maintain existing observatories, which need to seek to have new leases by 2033.  
  • HB2024 CD1 requires new management plans. Extensive management plans are already in place. 
  • HB2024 CD1 requires the number of observatories to be limited. The number of observatories is already limited, with some in the process of being decommissioned. 
  • HB2024 CD1 requires prioritizing the reuse of footprints of decommissioned observatories as sites for facilities or improvements over the use of undeveloped lands for such purposes. The BLNR has required footprints be returned to their natural state and does not anticipate further development by UH of undeveloped lands. 

In short, the DLNR believes that HB2024 CD1 opens Mauna Kea to further development and commercial use without the regulatory oversight that applies to all other lands in Hawaiʻi. 

The Department believes that while well-intentioned, this bill is based on a misguided assumption that UH has not managed Mauna Kea well. This is an old narrative that is no longer true.  Mauna Kea is tightly managed as a clean astronomy zone at the summit surrounded by 10,000 acres of well protected natural and cultural resources. Many people who state that Mauna Kea is mismanaged believe that TMT should not be built. That is an entirely different issue. 

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