Posts Tagged ‘University of Hawaii’

From Marti:

Great editorial in the Sacramento Bee yesterday about the analogies between the struggle depicted in the movie Avatar and the real world struggle to protect the last pristine plateau of Mauna Kea. Here’s a quote:

The California astronomers’ “unobtanium” quest – research papers revealing “the secrets of the universe” and identifying planets beyond our solar system – is certainly more noble than mining minerals, but it’s another example of promoting one culture’s notion of progress by overriding another’s reverence for the land. As in the movie, behind the Mauna Kea invaders stands the big money of a starry-eyed entrepreneur, Intel co-founder and telescope donor Gordon Moore.

Particularly rich was the comment posted by Richard Ha about the importance of process. Totally agree, Uncle, which is why we oppose a plan to manage the summit conservation district that is written by the lead-developer of the summit.  Just as one example, the plan puts no limit on the number of telescopes that could be built on the summit.

This is not surprising.  For decades, the University of Hawaii has promised to better protect the natural and cultural resources of the summit while actively destroying them.  This TMT+CMP combo is just the latest example.

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From Marti:

News coverage of the court hearing on the University’s plans for Mauna Kea characterized our opposition to the plan as anti-development.  It said:

“(opponents) want to block new development on the mountain by stopping approval of the management plan.”

As one of our kupuna pointed out, actually the motivation is all the University’s part.  She said

“advocates for more telescopes on the summit want the UH CMP rushed to completion in order to move forward with several new development plans.”

While it is true that as long as there is no plan there is no TMT, that is not the desired outcome for the plan.  We’re not trying to block the plan to stop TMT.

What we do want is the opportunity to have a real plan–one that arises out of a transparent process and allows communities to articulate a public vision for the future of these extremely important public trust lands. That is what a public planning process is supposed to do. The point is that we have been denied the kind of critical, public and open discussion that would lead to such a plan. In its place, we are being told to shut up and accept a plan that was written by the university and driven by its interest in telescope development and telescope dollars.

We have long said that we want a fair opportunity to talk through and determine together how astronomy and cultural practice and natural conservation coexist–in what form, by what rules, and with what limits–on the summit. This is not an unreasonable ask. The University is wasting precious public education dollars on motion after motion in this case, because they are unwilling to compromise in any way on their development plans. For the University, this case is all about TMT. For advocates of the mountain, this case is not about TMT at all. It is about our standing, and the right of the people of Hawai’i to determine the future of a unique, irreplaceable summit that is part of Hawai’i’s public trust.

Click here to read the article from the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

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From Marti:Testimony from 900 people in opposition to the University's plans for Mauna Kea

The bill to transfer management of the sacred summit of Mauna Kea to the University of Hawaii passed the state’s House Finance Committee on Tuesday. By the Committee’s own count, 900 people submitted testimony in opposition to the 10 or so in support.  This number is not counting the testimony submitted by a dozen Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) scholars who signed a joint letter in opposition to the bill, as well as testimony from the Hawaii Sierra Club, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, and several individual Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners detailing the history of destruction and desecration from the University’s 40 years of telescope construction on the summit.

This bill is extremely dangerous for the future of our sacred summit and all of our conservation lands.  It gives the University – the developer of the summit – control over what happens to the natural and cultural resources of the conservation district that currently protects the entire summit of the mountain, setting a terrible precedent for delegating the state’s conservation responsibilities to developers.

The bill would also allow the University to establish its own private police force on the summit.  These “rangers” do not have the same level of training or authority as the state resource enforcement officers who currently have jurisdiction over the summit.  In fact, these “rangers” themselves have engaged in desecration of cultural sites, interfered with spiritual and religious practice on the summit, and endangered unique, fragile natural resources.

In addition, the bill would allow the University to pocket state money with no oversight by establishing a special fund.  For 40 years, the University has facilitated the theft of state money by foreign telescope owners who construct massive telescope facilities (and all of the gift shops, parking lots, and other support structures that go with them) on state land without paying rent to the state.  In addition, millions in profits is made from the sale of patented information developed on the summit.  Instead of offering to pay some of this back-rent (to help the state avoid drastic budget cuts), the University is proposing to legitimatize this history of theft by establishing a special fund into which revenue from the summit is deposited and from which only the University can withdrawal.

The bill will now move to the state Senate for additional committee hearings.  If you care for the sacred summit of Mauna Kea and the integrity of conservation management in Hawaii, then now is the time to speak up.  For 10 years, the public has asked for the same four things:

1. A legitimate management plan – This is a plan that protects the natural and cultural resources of the summit from unreasonable development. It is prepared and approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources and accepted by the community.

2. An independent management board – the current set up is a puppet of the University with members chosen and paid by the University.

3. Fair Representation – the independent management board must include Kanaka Maoli and environmental representatives that serve in a meaningful decision-making role beyond just merely “advisory.”

4. Fair Compensation – while no one, but the University, knows for sure how much profit is made off the summit, some estimates put it at $50-60 million a year.  If the telescopes paid just that for the 40 years of back-rent owed to the state, taxpayers would earn $2 billion dollars.

You can help protect Mauna Kea.  Take action now!  Click here and submit a personalized letter to Hawaii’s legislators.

To help inspire you, here are excerpts from a few that have already been sent:

“I strongly oppose the University’s plans for the future of Mauna Kea. Enough is enough. The summit lands are ecologically sensitive and culturally sacred. Expansion of astronomy’s footprint on the mountain should not be an option. If a new telescope is truly needed, dismantle an old one. Mauna Kea should be available to the akua and to the people and to the scientists– in a way that puts pono first. Pono, meaning, in righteous balance for all concerned. You are our elected and appointed representatives, charged with the responsibility to excecute the wishes of the people, the caretakers of this land– not the empowered elite. Mauna Kea Summit is a conservation area and what remains should remain kapu. Protect it.
Z Johnson
Honokaa, Hawaii


“Aloha no —
I would like to add my voice to those protesting UH’s plans for the future of Mauna Kea. I am a huge fan of the science that is done in the observatories; however, this MUST be balanced with the rights of Kanaka Ma’oli and the needs of the environment.
David Edelstein
Seattle, Washington”


“I strongly oppose the University’s plans for the future of Mauna Kea. We should learn from the flaws of past Land Board mismanagement on Mauna Kea, keep the laws that protect Mauna Kea now, and exercise management authority towards the protection and restoration of this “wahi pana”, sacred place.

Mauna Kea is ceded lands. The unrelinquished claims of the rightful beneficiaries have yet to be settled!!!

For these reasons, I urge a strong stand for Mauna Kea. Uphold the protections currently in place, and preserve what is left of Mauna Awakea for it’s sacred purpose. It is our Kuleana – our Responsibility toward Akua (Creator) and the coming generations!!!

Luana Jones
Pahoa, Hawaii”



Malama i ka ‘aina a me na kupuna,
Leimomi Wheeler
Kea’au, Moku Nui


I am a UH-Hilo alumni from 2004 and now live in my home state of Minnesota. I am deeply dismayed by the continued breach of ethics and law by the school where I earned my degree. It is embarrassing for the state of Hawaii to continue to let these institutions bulldoze their cultural heritage and environmental resources in the name of scientific advancement. Hawaii is becoming a sad cliche in management of resources and in the treatment of indigenous peoples.

Has the astronomy community not taken enough land and proven enough mismanagement of what they have already taken? Isn’t it time for Hawaii to join the modern world and learn mistakes of the past and err on the side of protection and conservation? Once these sacred places and natural resources are taken, they are gone forever. They will become a paragraph in a history book on yet another breach of trust between government and its local population.

I did my UH Environmental Impact Statement paper in college on the Mauna Kea Plan. It didn’t take a masters degree to see how many laws have been violated or skirted around. I have many fond memories of hiking on Mauna Kea and respect and want to extend my support from afar for those who continue to try to preserve what is left.

Jennifer Johnson


“I vehemently oppose the University’s plans for the future of Mauna Kea. The lands of Mauna Kea are ecologically unique and culturally significant that is why they are protected as a conservation district. Conservation — not telescope construction — must be focus of all activity there.

Valerie Loh
Honolulu, Hawaii”

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Your help is needed right now. Lobbyists for the University of Hawaii, backed by powerful foreign telescope-developers, are pushing hard to take control of Mauna Kea’s public trust resources and override the conservation laws currently barring further development on our sacred summits. If successful, they will use this authority to write their own rules, approve their own permits, and shut-out the public. Public trust resources cannot be protected if the developers are allowed to police themselves.

Puu Hau Kea -- Massive Volcanic Cinder Cone On the flanks of Mauna Kea Hawaii

You can help stop UH’s land-grab on Mauna Kea’s sacred summit. After 40 years of mismanagement, tell the State Land Board and the Legislature that enough is enough!

“The University’s lobbyists will say anything to get their way. I heard them tell Legislators they had community consent. I am from the community and tell you what, they have nothing of the sort.” — Kukauakahi Ching, Native Hawaiian Practitioner.

Our sacred summits — Mauna Kea and Haleakala — are protected by law as conservation districts. These are public trust ceded lands–Hawaiian lands–held by the state in trust for the people of Hawaii. Yet, today Mauna Kea’s public lands are exploited by foreign corporations and the University, who are profiting from telescope activities on the summit at the public’s expense.

“The rent from the foreign telescope-owners is 30 years past due–they have paid only $1 a year to misuse Mauna Kea. If the state had been collecting the $50 million dollars a year from these foreign telescope-owners, like we suggested to them years ago, we would not have these budget shortfalls now. Remember, $50 million in 1 year is $100 million in just 2 years. They owe the people of Hawaii for 30 years of back rent. How dare they suggest to short-change the taxpayers now.” –Kealoha Pisciotta, President Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

Forty years of uncontrolled telescope construction has desecrated cultural sites, contaminated the ground above the primary aquifer, and destroyed 90% of the endemic Wekiu’s habitat. Today, developers are vying to build two new telescopes (along with roads, parking lots, office buildings, and gift shops) on undeveloped habitat around the summit area. One of them — owned by the California Thirty Meter Telescope Corporation — is larger than all the current telescopes combined and will bulldoze the last pristine peak near the summit.

The only thing stopping them is the law. That is why the University is working hard to overturn the laws that currently protect our sacred summits and limit telescope construction. Two courts of law and two state audits have already found that the telescope industry violated the state and federal laws meant to protect Mauna Kea. The only way their future telescope construction plans can go forward is for the University and the telescope developers to change and exempt themselves from these protective environmental laws.

This latest bid to take over Mauna Kea has two fronts:
1. Pressure the Land Board to adopt an illegitimate management plan that limits public access, dictates religious ceremony, and allows UH and telescope developers to pocket public money,
2. Lobby the Legislature to pass one of four bills that will hand-over authority for managing Mauna Kea to the primary developer of the summit, the University of Hawaii.

All of it comes down to the University’s same, long-sought goal: make it easier to exploit Mauna Kea for money. The latest proposal on the table would allow the University to restrict public access (including how and when Hawaiians may worship at the sacred summit), pocket all the money made on Mauna Kea, and exempt themselves from public oversight. This is a public policy and legal nightmare!

“The University wants to gate the road to Mauna Kea–the road was paid for by taxpayers, it’s a public road. The University wants to require Hawaiians to get a permit to worship–Mauna Kea belongs to Ke Akua, they cannot lock the people out of the temple. Even if Hawaiians could get a permit, it would mean they couldn’t bring their non-Hawaiian friends and ohana to ceremony. This is discrimination! Who is the University to say who can and cannot worship?” — Paul Neves, Alii Ai Moku, Royal Order of Kamehameha I.

Your voice can help preserve the sacred temple and delicate ecosystem of Mauna Kea. Take action now to tell the Legislature and the Land Board that Mauna Kea is still not for sale.

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All in the same month! (The good, the bad, and the ugly):

– The “Na Kupuna Council O Moku O Keawe”, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the Mayor-Elect for Hawaii Island came out in support of protecting Mauna Kea from uncontrolled telescope construction. (Maika’i!)

– Proponents moved forward with plans to seek the construction the new, massive Thirty Meter Telescope proposed for Mauna Kea, despite the fact that there is NO court-mandated mangement plan in place to protect cultural and environmental resources of the mountain. (Bad)

– The Land Board agreed to hand-over management authority of the Natural Area Reserve on Mauna Kea to the proponent of all the telescope construction on the summit: The University of Hawaii. (Ugh. Lee.)

On this last item, over 400 of you submitted letters to the Land Board opposing this give-away.

But with glossy photos of the sacred summit and empty promises to better protect the unique resources of the summit, the University’s self-appointed advisory group called the “Office of Mauna Kea Management” lulled Land Board members into believing the University has the expertise and motivation to protect the Natural Area Reserve on Mauna Kea.

The community knows better. The University’s presence on the summit has only led to 40 years of over-development, loss of native habitat, and interference with traditional cultural practices.

The Reserve should not be managed by the University in any way. The mission of the Mauna Kea Reserve is to protect the natural and cultural resources of the area, which is in direct conflict with the University’s mission to expand telescope activities on the summit. In fact, the Reserve was established and removed from the University’s control in 1981 precisely because the significant resources there needed more protection from the University’s telescope construction.

The Reserve on Mauna Kea protects a unique and threatened mountainous desert habitat and Hawaii’s only alpine lake, Lake Waiau. The Reserve includes the largest adze quarrry in the Pacific, ancient and modern burials, and Queen Emma’s shrine. These are public trust lands–Hawaiian lands held by the state in public trust for the people of Hawaii. Protecting this area needs management by experts in land conservation and cultural resources, not telescope construction.

The University has an appalling record of protecting resources while it constructed over 50 telescope and support structures on Mauna Kea. A 2005 EIS confirmed that the cumulative impact of 30 years of telescope activity on the cultural and natural resources of Mauna Kea has been “substantial, adverse and significant.” And this trend continues today, despite the mantra there is “a new management paradigm” on Mauna Kea. Just as it has done many times before, the University is currently pushing to draft a management plan on its own terms, not the community’s, while at the same time entertaining the construction of a new massive telescope on the last pristine plateau of Mauna Kea.

The University has long sought more direct control over the mountain to further its long-standing financial interest in developing the summit for telescopes. This week, the Land Board’s decision brought the University one step closer to consolidating its control over the summit.

But there are many opportunities coming up to reign in the University and telescope activity on Mauna Kea. Stay tuned to help out in the effort to uphold the protections already on the books for Mauna Kea. In January, we expect the University to once again seek the Legislature’s approval to change the law to allow continued telescope expansion on the summit. The University has tried and failed many times before to command complete control over the summit, but each time the community has successfully educated decision-makers on good policy-making and upheld the protections for Mauna Kea.

Let’s get ready to do it again this year!

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