Categorized | News, Sci-Tech

Hawaiians appeal BLNR’s Mauna Kea decision


Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, conservationists, and concerned citizens have filed suit in the Third Circuit Court to uphold their right to challenge the adequacy of the state’s management on the sacred summit of Mauna Kea.
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources improperly denied the request for a contested case hearing made by Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the Sierra Club, KAHEA: The Hawaiian‐Environmental Alliance, and Clarence Kukauakahi Ching, claiming they do not have standing to critique the adequacy of a management plan approved in April.

Mauna Kea summit. (Photo courtesy of KAHEA)

Mauna Kea summit. (Photo courtesy of KAHEA)

“The Board’s decision undermines the basic right everyone in Hawaii has to stand up for their environment, their culture, and their religion,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, President of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, in a joint media release. “Despite extensive evidence on the record of our cultural, spiritual, environmental and recreational connections to Mauna Kea, the Board is now claiming we suddenly have no right to ensure it is protected from bulldozers.” 

BLNR claimed in its decision that only those with private property interests in the summit can challenge the Board’s decision, even though Mauna Kea is public land held in trust by the state on behalf of Hawaii’s residents.

“Mauna Kea belongs to the people,” said Alii Ai Moku Paul Neves of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in the release. “Hawaii law has long recognized the unique interests of Native Hawaiians and the public in protecting our natural and cultural resources. The Board cannot approve any management plan without hearing all of the facts first, and that means holding this contested case hearing.” 

“Citizen participation in agency decisions is an essential part of our democratic tradition,” said Nelson Ho of the Sierra Club. “The concept of meaningful public participation ensures decision-makers will have adequate information and minimizes the possibility of public corruption and back-room dealing.” 

The management plan in question was required by a 2007 ruling of the Third Circuit Court in favor of these groups, who have been working to protect the summit for more than 15 years.

In that 2007 decision, the court held that a comprehensive management plan is required before any land altering activity can be allowed in the conservation district at the summit of Mauna Kea.

“The law does not allow construction in a conservation district unless all of the natural and cultural resources are fully protected by a comprehensive management plan,” said Marti Townsend, Program Director at KAHEA: The Hawaiian‐Environmental Alliance. “Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred conservation districts in the islands. Yet the hastily approved plan fails to adequately ensure cultural practice and public access, protect resources, or control harmful construction. It demonstrates the Land Board is ignoring the law and its responsibility to properly manage this conservation district.”
Mauna Kea is a religious temple, human burial ground, and a site for the study of traditional Hawaiian techniques in navigation and astronomy.
It protects the primary aquifer for the Island of Hawaii and is the only tropical alpine desert, home to many rare and threatened native species.
In 1978, Hawaii designated the summit region a conservation district, which requires special approval before any construction may proceed so as to protect valuable resources.
In April, the Board approved the controversial management plan written by the University of Hawaii, despite two days of community testimony that highlighted the inadequacy of the plan to protect  the summit.
Community members raised serious concerns about UH’s inability to protect Mauna Kea because it is the primary advocate for all construction on the summit.
UH is currently seeking permission from the Land Board to build a massive new Thirty Meter Telescope on the last pristine plateau near the summit.

“UH and the Land Board are pushing this new management plan because they want to guarantee building another massive telescope on this sacred site,” said Clarence Kukauakahi Ching, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and retired attorney. “But they can’t do anything until they first deal with the adverse impacts of all the telescopes they have built on our summit over the last 30 years. These telescopes have leveled cinder cones, dumped human waste and toxic chemicals over our aquifer, and impaired cultural practices on the summit. The courts agree, it is time for this to stop.”
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