UH regents approve resolution on Mauna Kea stewardship, proposed administrative rules

Local News

HONOLULU (UPDATE): The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents approved the latest draft of the administrative rules for University of Hawaiʻi-managed lands on Maunakea at a special meeting on November 6 on the UH Hilo campus.

After 99 people testified at the meeting that lasted just over 11 hours, the regents voted unanimously in favor of the rules with one amendment, eliminating the requirement that groups of 10 or more must register before entering UH managed areas.

The rules now advance through the remainder of the administrative rules process to Gov. David Ige for final approval.

[The rules can be viewed on page 627 of the Board of Regents Meeting Materials but do not yet reflect the elimination of the section regarding groups registration]

The rules are the results of extensive consultation and public outreach that included Native Hawaiian organizations, Hawaiʻi Island business organizations, commercial tour operators and government agencies including Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Office of Hawaiʻi County Mayor. Maunakea Management Board and Kahu Kū Mauna. 

The purpose of the rules, under section 20-26-1, is to “provide for the proper use, management, and protection of cultural, natural, and scientific resources of the UH management areas; to promote public safety and welfare by regulating public and commercial activity within the UH management areas; to ensure safe and appropriate access to the UH management areas for the public; and to foster co-management with the department of land and natural resources in UH management areas.”

The current rules making process started in early 2018. The first round of four public hearings on the initial draft was held in September 2018 on Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, and Oʻahu. A revised draft was prepared based on the comments and concerns received during those public hearings and shared with stakeholder groups and the public during a three-month, informal outreach process that began in January 2019.

A second round of four public hearings was held in June 2019 on Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, and Oʻahu. The draft that was approved by the regents included revisions based on 738 written submissions collected, and 225 oral testifiers recorded, during the two rounds of formal public hearings in 2018 and 2019.


The University of Hawaii Board of Regents adopted a resolution directing UH leadership to strengthen its stewardship of Maunakea. The resolution lists 11 action items and a timeframe for completion.

The action was approved by a 9-0 vote, with one regent abstaining, at a November 6 special board meeting on the UH Hilo campus.

In response to the testimony received, the regents also requested that the administration report back on what stakeholders would be involved in developing any reorganization and restructuring plan for the management of the Mauna.

Here’s the resolution below:

To Act on Items Relating to Maunakea Management 

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents believes and acknowledges that Maunakea holds a special and important place in the history, culture, and hearts of the peoples of Native Hawaiian ancestry and all of Hawaii; and 

WHEREAS, Maunakea has become a symbol of Native Hawaiian self-determination; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents recognizes that the University of Hawai’i (“University”) has been criticized for past and present management of Mauna kea; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents realizes that any mismanagement of Maunakea is hurtful and disrespectful to the sanctity and inviolability of this place to Native Hawaiians and others; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents in response to past criticisms, has clarified its roles, duties, and responsibilities beginning with the adoption of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan (2000), Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan UH Management Areas (2009), A Cultural Resources Management Plan for the University of Hawai’i Management Areas on Mauna Kea (2009), Natural Resources Management Plan for the UH Management Areas on Mauna Kea (2009), Public Access Plan for the UH Management areas on Mauna Kea (2010), and Decommissioning Plan for the Mauna Kea Observatories (2010) (collectively hereinafter referred to as “Management Plans”); and 

WHEREAS, under said Management Plans, the Board of Regents was principally responsible to fulfill and to carry out all of the recommendations, obligations, and duties promulgated under said Management Plans; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents takes its responsibility seriously and hereby affirms its commitment to follow through with the recommendations made in the Management Plans to better manage the impacts of the astronomy facilities and operations upon the natural environment, cultural resources, recreational resources, educational resources, and upon the broader community; and 

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents has determined that there remain unmet responsibilities and ongoing compliance issues that have delayed completion of certain recommendations and requirements under the Management Plans; and 

WHEREAS, THE Board of Regents therefore desires to remove any delays in compliance and to complete ongoing responsibilities in an accelerated and expeditious manner. 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that University of Hawai’i President David Lassner, University of Hawai’i at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, University of Hawai’i Vice President Vassilis Syrmos, Maunakea Support Services (MKSS), Institute for Astronomy (IfA), Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM), and any other necessary, related management or operation entity be directed to cause the following action items to be accomplished in the timeframes as specified herein below:

  1. Two (2) observatory sites known as the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and Hokukea site shall be decommissioned no later than December 31, 2021. For purposes of this resolution, the term “decommissioning” shall mean the complete removal of all man-made structures at each respective site bringing each site to as close as feasible to its natural state prior to construction. These will be the first two of five observatories to be decommissioned.
  2. A schedule of decommissioning of these two sites will be laid out on a Gantt chart or other similar visual schedule for each of the above sites indicating function and timeframe for each major step in the decommissioning process to achieve completion on or by December 31, 2021. The schedule for decommissioning shall be presented to the Board of Regents on or before its February 2020 meeting.
  3. A new educational telescope facility for the University of Hawai’i at Hilo shall be established on already developed land at Hale Pohaku or elsewhere, as soon as can be permitted, with a target date no later than December 31, 2021, to ensure the prompt availability of a teaching telescope. The Board of Regents shall support the funding of the planning, design, and construction of the new educational facility.
  4. On or by December 30, 2025, a determination will be made on the decommissioning of three (3) additional observatory sites based upon compliance with existing or future permits or governmental approvals. If decommissioning is required, the three (3) observatory sites will be identified and reported to the Board of Regents by January 2026.
  5. In collaboration with OMKM and MKSS, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center shall develop a suite of educational programs regarding Maunakea including but not limited to Native Hawaiian culture, history, environmental, and biological considerations designed for tour guides and drivers, employees, contractors, recreational users, scientists and observatory workers, and visitors, as required by the Management Plans, by August 31, 2020. OMKM shall report to the Board of Regents on its plans and progress to implement said educational programs at its February 2020 meeting. Administration shall make a budget request during the 2020 legislative session to fund this action item.
  6. Administration shall make a CIP request during the 2020 legislative session for monies to plan, design, and construct an educational center at Hale Pohaku and/or another appropriate site on Maunakea that will educate visitors on cultural, environmental, and astronomy-related topics relating to Maunakea.
  7. The Maunakea Master Plan update will accommodate uses by Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.
  8. A reorganization and restructuring plan shall be presented to the Board of Regents as to all advisory, operating, and funding bodies involved in the management ofMaunakea by April 2020. The purpose of the plan is to improve operations and management and make it more efficient, effective and transparent. The analysis will include consultation with the Maunakea Management Board, Kahu Ku Mauna and appropriate members of the Hawaii Island community. The reorganization and restructuring plan shall be embodied into a governance document that is approved by the Board of Regents
  9. As part of the reorganization and restructuring plan, an in-depth analysis will be done to determine whether the management of the Maunakea Science Reserve would be better served if transferred to a governmental authority or other third party entity, or through alternate management mechanisms (e.g., conservation easement agreement, etc.). The analysis will include consultation with the Maunakea Management Board, Kahu Kfi Mauna and appropriate members of the Hawaii Island community. The results of this analysis will be presented to the Board of Regents by April 2020.
  10. The University will cooperate with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) to resolve any outstanding issues relating to the roadway infrastructure on Maunakea and will seek opportunities to assist DHHL in its efforts to fulfill its trust duties and responsibilities on the use of its Maunakea lands.
  11. As permitted by law, the University should pursue a partnership with an appropriate agency or organization whose primary beneficiary is the Native Hawaiian community, to operate commercial shuttles and tours on Maunakea.

Adopted by the Board of Regents University of Hawai’i 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The resolution was drafted by the BOR Maunakea Governance Permitted Interaction Group formed in August 2019 and is intended to be dissolved following submission of its report and a proposed resolution to the BOR for its consideration. It was amended at the meeting after taking the testimony and regents taking stakeholder concerns into consideration. 

The  Maunakea Governance Permitted Interaction Group consisted of six regents, proposed the resolution after engaging with university administration, government officials and outside advisors and looked into issues related to the university’s stewardship and governance activities on Maunakea.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories