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We have done an excellent job of standing up for Hawaii’s conservation lands and waters!  Last Fall, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) proposed a suite of regulatory rollbacks in Hawaii’s conservation areas.  Hundreds of individuals and organizations stepped up to defend Hawaii’s sacred and significant lands, and the DLNR staff listened. The majority of these rollbacks have been abandoned!!  Please make a point to thank the DLNR staff for listening.

BUT (there’s always a but), three major loopholes still linger. We need your help right now to halt them.

1. Just add “comprehensive”: by changing definitions and re-structures subsections, the new rules would effectively erase the Third Circuit Court’s ruling in favor of protecting Mauna Kea’s natural and cultural resources through comprehensive management.

We can prevent this rollback by asking DLNR to insert the word “comprehensive” into the sections that require management plans for astronomy facilities.  This should be extended to include open ocean aquaculture facilities too.

With this one word, Hawaii’s land managers could abandon the piecemeal decision-making that has allowed so much of our public trust lands and waters to be sacrificed in the past. And instead embrace truly comprehensive management, where resource protection is the primary purpose of all decision-making.

2. Protective zone is not an energy production zone: The new rules would allow for renewable energy production facilities to be located in the most protected subzone of the conservation district.  This makes no sense.  We all support renewable energy, but not when it is pitted against the protection of our most fragile wilderness areas.

3. Public oversight on commercial uses: The new rules would take away the requirement that commercial activities in the conservation district undergo a public hearing.  There is a lot of opportunity for abuse in these situations.  At the very least, commercial use of state (ceded) lands in the conservation district should undergo public hearing and Board approval.

Please attend the hearings this week and next (info below) and thank DLNR staff for listening and urge them to close the last loopholes.

Hearings start at 5:30 pm:

  • January 24, 2011 Waiehu, Maui
    Paukukalo Community Center, 657 Kaumualii St.
  • January 25, 2011 Hilo, Hawaii
    Hawaii County Council Room, 25 Aupuni St.
  • January 31, 2011 Kaunakakai, Molokai
    Mitchell Pauole Center, 90 Ainoa St.
  • February 1, 2011 Lihue, Kauai
    Lihue Library, 4344 Hardy St.
  • February 7, 2011 Kona, Hawaii
    Mayor’s Conf. Room, 75-5706 Kuakini Hwy, Rm 103
  • February 9, 2011 Honolulu, Oahu
    Kalanimoku Bldg., 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm 132
  • Link to Proposed Rule Changes:
    www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/occl

    Mahalo nui,
    Marti and All Us Guys at KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance

    1149 Bethel St., #415
    Honolulu, HI 96813
    www.kahea.org
    blog.kahea.org

    phone: 808-524-8220 (O`ahu), 877-585-2432 toll-free
    email: kahea-alliance@hawaii.rr.com

    KAHEA: the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance is a network of thousands of diverse individuals islands-wide and around the world. Together, we work to secure the strongest possible protections for Hawaii’s most ecologically unique and culturally sacred places and resources.

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From our legal-intern Bianca Isaki:

Aloha kakou,

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation of Hawaiÿi (NHLC) has filed a legal action on behalf of Kilakila `O Haleakalä, a Native Hawaiian community organized toward the protection of the sacred summit of Haleakalä on Maui, against the University of Hawaiÿi (UH) and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).  On December 1, 2010, a DLNR Board approved a management plan and a conservation district use application for the construction and operation of an Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) on the Haleakalä summit. The National Science Foundation has pledged $20 million of the $298 million price tag for the ATST, which is supposed to be running by 2017.

Yet, the plans for the solar telescope are riddled with contradictions. The UH management plan asserts that its Haleakalä project will have “no significant impact” at the same time that its conservation district use application describes ATST’s adverse impacts on cultural and visual resources that “no mitigation would adequately reduce.”

Many questions also surround the Board’s approval. The ATST project fails the Board’s own guidelines for conservation district use, yet the permit was granted without even a public hearing. The Board has an established practice of holding contested case hearings when groups with standing, like Kilakila `O Haleakalä, request them. So, why was their request denied when they have clear standing as a community stakeholder in a decision that will significantly impact them and the public at large? Although ATST supporters have enlisted a number of Native Hawaiians in a working group committee to “make sure it [the ATST] has minimal impact,” the project’s consideration of Native Hawaiian rights seems dubious in light of the ways that Kilakila `O Haleakalä has been shut out from substantive aspects of the process.

NHLC attorneys raise these questions as well as the most glaringly obvious one, why is a telescope being installed (and its ancillary buildings, parking lots, wastewater treatment facilities, electric generators and transformers) in a “conservation district”? According to the UH and a federal assessment, installing the ATST is predicted to adversely impact natural resources; so, why is the project moving forward?

The Kilakila `O Haleakalä pleading asks the 1st District Court to require that a full Environmental Impact Statement be done for activities proposed on the Haleakalä summit, to void the Board’s approvals of the UH’s Environmental Assessment, Management Plan, and Conservation District Use Application, grant a contested case hearing, and to declare the ATST project an “industrial complex” that is inconsistent with conservation land use.

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From Marti:

On Wednesday, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources voted (6-1) to approve the construction permit for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), on the theory that annual reports by the University of Hawaii will adequately protect endangered species and Hawaiian cultural practices.  Here are some snipets of what was said at the meeting:

“They (UH) can say Malama Aina but I don’t believe it. Look at what has been done to the mountain in the name of astronomy.” -Kiope Raymond, Kilakila O Haleakala.

“If all the telescopes go away, it would be no loss for me as an astronomer. I would simply go to where the telescopes are.” -Paul Coleman, UH Astronomer.

I understand the concerns about protecting the Hawaiian culture, but this telescope is about the living and that’s why I am going to support it. – Jerry Edlao, BLNR member, (paraphrase)

Kilakila O Haleakala has already filed suit for the lack of an environmental impact statement on the University’s management plan for the summit of Haleakala and requested a contested case hearing on the construction permit.

News related to the BLNR’s decision on the ATST:

Michael Levine shared this Civil Beat Article with you: http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2010/12/02/7019-state-oks-maui-solar-telescope-hawaiian-opponents-feel-burned/


State OKs Maui Solar Telescope, Hawaiian Opponents Feel Burned

By Michael Levine on 12/02/2010
(reprinted with permission from Mike Levine)

A proposed solar telescope atop Maui’s Haleakala Volcano will be built despite Native Hawaiian opposition and an environmental report showing the project would have major cultural impacts.

The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources on Wednesday approved a Conservation District Use Permit for theAdvanced Technology Solar Telescope. The permit is a critical, if not final, step in the decades-long discussion to build such a device. Opponents could still appeal the decision.

When completed in about seven years, the new building will join a half-dozen scopes at the 18-acre Haleakala High Altitude Observatories Site, known by many simply as “Science City.” Some testifying Wednesday said their access to the mountaintop — which Native Hawaiians consider sacred — is already restricted and complained that stewardship for the area has been sorely lacking.

Astrophysicists from the University of Hawaii argued the new telescope will be a boon to Hawaii’s scientific community, will benefit students, will create jobs and boost the local economy.

They also said that the research is important for humanity as a whole, and that Maui was selected by the international community to be the optimal location for the ATST. Not to be confused with the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope(“TMT”) project proposed for Mauna Kea on the Big Island that will study stars throughout the Milky Way and other galaxies, the ATST hopes to determine how cosmic magnetic fields are generated and destroyed by looking closely at just one star — our sun.

“This is about understanding the interior of the sun and how it works,” Jeff Kuhn, a solar astronomer with the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, said at the meeting Wednesday.

He said the device would help measure solar flares and changes in the sun’s temperature that, while small compared to immense heat of the sun, could impact life on earth. It’s impossible to stop hurricanes, but it’s still nice to know when they’re coming, Kuhn said. The research that will be possible with the new telescope could help humans in much the same way.

Haleakala is Sacred

But Native Hawaiians reiterated their opposition to the proposal. They say Haleakala is sacred and should not be desecrated with further development, even for scientific research. They complain that the university hasn’t adequately maintained the area since it took control decades ago. And they say they want access to view planes and other culturally important sites.

Kiope Raymond is a professor at Maui Community College, part of the University of Hawaii system that was seeking the permit. But his area of study is Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies, not astronomy, and as president of theKilakila O Haleakala nonprofit organization, he has spoken in opposition to the proposal.

At Wednesday’s meeting, after retelling the legend of the demigod Maui snaring the sun at Haleakala, Raymond tearfully said that he had had a spiritual epiphany at Haleakala. He asked board members to vote no.

“It’s a matter of stewardship,” he told the Land Board members. “You are in effect the konohiki (land stewards) for all of us. … You have a tremendous kuleana (responsibility).”

The Final Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the project acknowledges that the construction and day-to-day use of the ATST “would be seen as culturally insensitive and disturb traditional cultural practices,” causing a “major, adverse, long-term impact” to cultural, historic and archeological resources.

schematic design [pdf] submitted by the applicant in November shows the building housing the telescope will be more than 100 feet high and will need to burrow about 30 feet down into the volcanic rock. The National Solar Observatory, which manages the ATST, previously estimated that the project would cost an estimated $175 million to construct.

What Comes Next

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, David Kimo Frankel of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation had already filed a request for a contested case hearing, which would allow both sides to argue in a quasi-judicial setting. Frankel said the board was required to grant the request and hold the hearing before making its decision.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Laura Thielen, likely in her last meeting as board chair, conferred with a deputy attorney general in a 30-minute executive session and decided to ignore the request.

A contested case hearing or appeal in the court system is still a possibility after the board’s vote, which is why the approval may not be the final OK the telescope needs from the state government.

Before the vote, Thielen added language requiring the University of Hawaii to report back to the Land Board each year with a list of any additional mitigation methods suggested by a Native Hawaiian Working Group, along with the results of those suggestions. She said it was a good model for future projects the board handles after she’s gone.

William Aila Jr., currently the Waianae harbormaster and governor-elect Neil Abercrombie‘s pick to head up DLNR, arrived at the board meeting during the telescope discussion Wednesday but did not testify or otherwise voice any opinion. Aila, a Native Hawaiian, has supported some indigenous causes — for example, he has opposed military live-fire training in Makua Valley.

Four other members joined Thielen in voting to approve the permit.

Among those in favor was Maui board member Jerry Edlao, who said it was a difficult decision.

“I respect the cultural aspects and the spiritual aspects,” he said, making eye contact with Raymond, the emotional opponent from Maui. “But I think in my mind, this project will benefit the living now, and I think it’s the living now that concerns me the most.”

The lone vote in opposition came from Samuel Gon, a scientist and cultural advisor with The Nature Conservancy and an at-large member of the board.

“I really appreciate the development and the knowledge that is gained by astronomical efforts,” Gon said. “But I will have to go with my gut on this particular motion.”

Gon explained his vote in a Thursday e-mail to Civil Beat, saying he wanted to “make it clear to the IFA that the issues run deep, that it is not a clear green light for full speed ahead, but that there are conditions, concerns, and ongoing trust to build and maintain.”

“The new observatory will be one of the largest buildings ever constructed on Maui, and will be hard to ignore,” he wrote. “I was moved by the testimony presented, and needed to honor those that flew in from Maui to make their statements.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Land Board unanimously approved a related item establishing a comprehensive management plan [pdf] for astronomy atop Haleakala.


DISCUSSION: Did the Land Board err in allowing the solar telescope to move forward on Haleakala? Join the conversation.


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From Marti:

On Monday, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources deferred decision-making on the construction permit that would allow a 14-story telescope to be built on Haleakala.  This telescope — the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope — is well-funded by the National Science Foundation, but is extremely controversial in Hawaii.  From public hearings held on Maui, it is clear that opposition to this project outweighs support by at least two-to-one.  With only three-days’ notice, dozens of people phoned in their opposition directly to the BLNR when Monday’s hearing was announced.

This telescope is bigger than anything currently on the summit and will forever undermine the tranquility and refuge of this spiritual peak, nesting ground of the rare shearwater petrel, and U.S. National Park.  And, as if that weren’t bad enough (it is!), this monstrosity is designed to look at the sun, but is not solar powered.  huh?!!

The reason the BLNR Chairperson, Laura Thielen, gave for the deferral was a new court decision from the Intermediate Court of Appeals regarding traditional and customary practices of Native Hawaiians.  As awful and disappointing as Judge Leonard’s decision was in that case (click to here to Pratt v. Hawai‘i), it does not seem at all relevant to the BLNR’s decision on the ATST.

If it isn’t relevant, then why did they bother to postpone decisionmaking?

My theory:  the telescope didn’t have the votes.

Seven volunteer members comprise the BLNR.  For a permit to be approved, it needs four votes total.  At this particular hearing on the ATST last week, three BLNR members were absent (it was a long hearing).  So, to pass, the telescope needed all four of the votes sitting there.

After the heated exchange in public testimony, both in support and in opposition. The BLNR went behind closed doors for an executive session with their lawyer.  I bet their questions and comments to legal counsel revealed a lack of unanimous support for building another telescope on this mountain.  Instead of risking a split vote that would have denied the permit, the chairperson opted to delay decisionmaking.  Thankful there was this random, bad decision just released from the appeals court that the chairperson could hang her hat on.

Missing that day from the BLNR:
Rob Pacheco (Big Island tour operator)
Jerry Edlao (Maui pest exterminator)
Sam Gon (The Nature Conservancy, from Oahu)

The next decision-making hearing on the construction permit for this non-solar powered, solar telescope is:

December 1, 2010 at 9 am at 1151 Punchbowl Street in Honolulu.

Please join us, if you can make it.

Learn more about the effort to protect Hawai‘i’s sacred summits:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2699/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1198

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A note from the ATST opposition on Maui:

Aloha.   

Kilakila o Haleakalā is a Native Hawaiian organization set up to provide education to the public in opposition to the proposed Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) that the National Science Foundation is planning to build atop sacred Haleakalā.   Construction of this monstrous building will desecrate our sacred summit and irreparably interfere with the practice of Native Hawaiian Spiritual Practitioners.

Kilakila o Haleakalā is represented by Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and will be challenging the Finding of No Significant Impact in the Final Environment Assessment (FEA), which evaluates a Management Plan (MP) for activities undertaken by the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy (UHIfA)  at the Haleakala High Altitude Observatory Site.   We are also contesting the conservation district use permit (CDUP) application filed with the Board of Land and Natural Resources by National Science Foundation and UHIfA  for the construction of the ATST upon sacred Haleakalā.

It is inconceivable that they would try to have us believe that construction of a 14 story telescope and plans to build more telescopes in the future would have no significant impact to our sacred mountain.   So many important issues were inadequately addressed in their scarce report, including the impact on the views both from the summit and from all over the island; the construction noise and the noise from all the observatories both upon spiritual practitioners trying to do their practices and also upon the ‘ua’u, protected Hawaiian petrels; the interference with constitutionally protected Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices; the effect of the construction itself on the ‘ua’u and flora and fauna, etc.  The list goes on and on and on, but these matters (and the beliefs and opinions of the majority of the Native Hawaiian people) are being ignored once again by organizations and individuals who have no understanding of Hawaiian culture.

Haleakalā is the sacred ancestor of the Kānaka Maoli, but these inadequate studies find that further desecration of our ancestor will have no significant impact on either sacred Haleakalā or the history and culture of the Kānaka Maoli.  Please help us preserve sacred Haleakalā from further desecration and start returning the summit to its natural state.

We are looking for a total of $20,000 in donations to pay for the legal fees and to bring in expert witnesses to fight this cultural genecide.    Please help.   You can send donations to Kilakila o Haleakala, c/o K. McDuff, P O Box 1043, Haiku HI  96708.   We will have a pay pal account up on our website in the near future as well: www.kilakilahaleakala.org.

Mahalo for your consideration and support,

Kathy McDuff

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OCCL Hearing Honolulu
From Marti:
On Thursday night, the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) held a public hearing in Honolulu on their proposed changes to the regulations protecting conservation districts. The first major changes in 15 years… so it wasn’t surprising to see the meeting was standing room only.Unfortunately, only a dozen or so of us felt empowered to speak (it was a particularly uncomfortable hearing set-up).

Hearings officer Sam Lemmo, the administrator for OCCL, made a point of assuring the room that the final regulations would definitely be different from what we are seeing tonight based on all of the great input they had been getting.  (Did you just feel that gentle pat on the top of your head?  I did.)

We pressed Sam on when we might actually see the final regulations. Generally speaking, the agenda for the Board of Land and Natural Resources is posted a mere six-days before the Board decides an issue.  Will we only get six days to review the final version of the rules that are supposed to be protecting our conservation lands for at least the next 15 years?

In response, Sam chuckled and said “good question.”  The audience laughed.  I laughed, too — because what do you do when someone laughs in your face?  Despite all the laughter it was a sad moment.

It is sad when regulations as important as these are given but the bare minimum of study and public process.  We are talking about 2 million acres of conservation lands — our watersheds, nearshore waters… the important places.  Conservation lands are 51% of the crown and government lands that are supposed to be held in the “ceded” lands trust for Native Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii — we have an obligation to protect these assets.

From what I hear from the old-timers, when these rules were changed 15 years ago, there was a public blue ribbon panel convened to advise the division on improving the regulations. Today, DLNR is unilaterally proposing major revisions. What gives? Where is the expert panel?  The thoughtful study?  The reasoned assessment?

In response to my quote on the need for “a blue ribbon panel” in the Star-Advertiser on Thursday, several insiders came forward at the hearing to thank Sam for DLNR’s history of work on these rule changes that were, in their words, “a long-time coming.” So long in coming, in fact, that the public just heard about them. These rules saw the first light of day in July and are expected to be approved before December.  Coincidentally, that’s right before the Lingle Administration leaves office.  Feels more like a 50-yard dash than a “long-time coming” to me.

Both in and out of public hearings, we have heard Sam say, at least 20 times (no exaggeration, I seriously counted), “Good question, that wasn’t what I intended” in response to questions and concerns about the staff’s proposed changes. I don’t know about you guys, but if what I write down isn’t what I meant to say, its usually because I was in a rush and didn’t take the time to think about the implications…  welll… that kind of pondering is exactly what we need right now.

Good changes, bad changes, the bottom line is these changes need more thought.  We should not let the timeline for the end of an administration drive the schedule for amending some of the most important protections in our islands.

Want to feel like you were there?  Here is a link to notes from the Honolulu public hearing on August 12, 2010.

Want to participate in the process?  Sign up for KAHEA’s action alert network, later this week we’ll send out an easy-to-use comment form by email.

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We’re liking this thought-proving post from journalist Anne Minard, on the “next great telescope race”–Day 14 of her “100 Days of Science.” She asks some great questions about the fundamental purpose of the two U.S. proposals for “next generation” giant land-based telescopes being proposed for construction within the next 10 years. Do we really need THIS much telescope, guys?

Charles Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, acknowledged that the two telescopes are headed toward redundancy. The main differences, he said, are in the engineering.

He said the next generation of telescopes is crucial for forward progress in 21st Century astronomy.

“The goal is to start discovering and characterizing planets that might harbor life,” he said. “It’s very clear that we’re going to need the next generation of telescopes to do that.”

And far from being a competition, the real race is to contribute to science, said Charles Blue, a TMT spokesman.

“All next generation observatories would really like to be up and running as soon as possible to meet the scientific demand,” he said.

But when I asked him why the United States teams haven’t pooled their expertise to build a single next-generation telescope, Blue declined to comment.

In all, there are actually three teams (two from the U.S., and one from Europe) racing to build the first of these giant land-based telescopes: Extremely Large Telescope (Europe), TMT (U.S.), and Giant Magellan Telescope (U.S.). (And no, we’re not making these names up… in almost every description we could find, these bad boys are characterized first and foremost by their massive size.) The total estimated price tag for all this summit development? $2.6 billion dollars.

In the midst of this competition to build the first and the largest,  the worldwide community of those who share aloha for sacred summits are humbly asking:  for time and real consideration for native ecosystems, threatened endemic species, the cultural meaning of sacred space, cultural practice, and the natural and cultural heritage we have to pass forward to next generations… all in short supply on earth today. Can we not rationally slow down this latest race for space, in the interest of the future of life on our own planet?

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