Governor should consider transferring Mauna Kea Lands to OHA

`Ano`ai kakou…  As many readers know, Mauna Kea is a ceded land asset belonging to both Native Hawaiians and the general public.  OHA Trustees are also mandated by state law to advocate for all Native Hawaiian and to protect and preserve sacred sites.

On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced that he had asked UH, which subleases the summit area from the state, to make ten changes to improve its stewardship of Mauna Kea.  One of the ten changes included UH voluntarily returning to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) full jurisdiction of more than 10,000 acres that are not specifically needed for astronomy.

I commended Governor Ige for his commitment to make Mauna Kea whole again.  Transferring such a large portion of Mauna Kea out if UH’s hands is a wonderful idea and provides Native Hawaiians with a positive first step in revising the way Mauna Kea is safe-guarded.

However, I have recently heard through unconfirmed reports that DLNR has been resistant to taking control over the Mauna Kea lands because they lack the resources to properly manage it.

If it is true that DLNR is unable to take responsibility over the lands, I would like to suggest that the state encourage UH to turn over the lands to OHA.  It would make perfect sense since all 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act.  The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

OHA’s administration has built up its capacity to manage both commercial and preservations lands by establishing an in-house land department and a land committee at the board level.

I believe that transferring responsibility over Mauna Kea lands to OHA would produce the best “win-win” situation for the State, the University of Hawaii and all of OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.  What better solution could there be than to put Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands?


On April 1, 2015, the Board of Trustees rescinded its support of Mauna Kea as the site of the TMT.  As a result OHA has no position as to whether or not the TMT should be located on the mountain.

Nonetheless, on July 10, 2015, OHA opposed DLNR’s proposals to use emergency rulemaking procedures to ban outdoor gear and nighttime presence in an 18,000 acre corridor leading to the summit of Mauna Kea.  OHA testified that there were a number of technical, statutory, cultural, environmental, public safety, and constitutional concerns, as well as the potential for unintended natural, cultural, and public safety concerns.

Despite OHA’s strong opposition, the BLNR passed the following rules: (1) A rule change that will allow for the BLNR Chairperson to close public hunting areas for up to 30 days; and (2) A rule closing the Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road, including one mile on either side, from 10:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m.  Aloha Ke Akua.