Testify on the University of Hawaiʻi’s proposed rules for Mauna Kea

The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents will finally meet—after postponing twice—to review the latest version of the administrative rules proposed for Mauna Kea and the University’s own proposal for future Mauna Kea activities. 

Wednesday, November 6, 9:45am
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Performing Arts Center, 200 W. Kawili Street, Hilo, Hawai‘i 96720-4091

Submit testimony by Tuesday, November 5, 9:45am to bor.testimony@hawaii.edu

View the agenda here.

This is a vital opportunity to share your concerns and opposition to the rules being proposed by the University. There are many things wrong with the rules, including requiring a special permit to access the mauna at night, fines as high as $2500, restricting cell phone and flashlight use and giving the university president full authority over permit issuance. 

Sierra Club’s main concerns include: 

  • The original purpose of these rules, as recommended by the state auditor in the past, was to address permit violations by observatories and increases in traffic largely caused by commercial tours. The rules should be re-written to reflect this original purpose.
  • The University, including staff, students, and researchers, are exempt from these rules.
  • The University of Hawaiʻi should not be in the position of issuing these selective rules for state conservation lands. The University’s stated purpose is education, not the protection of natural and cultural resources. It is the Department of Land and Natural Resources, whose mission is to protect conservation districts, that should be administering these rules. The rules should be reviewed, amended, and approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources before they go to the Governor for his signature. 
  • The proposed rules do not follow the Public Access Sub-Plan in the Comprehensive Management Plan, which calls for education, communication, and collaboration when using the lowest levels of control, and discretion when using higher levels of control. Instead, the rules are punitive—calling for stiff fines and expelling people from UH areas.

How we got here:

From KAHEA: In 1998, the State Auditor recommended empowering UH to make rules to rectify management issues on Mauna Kea lands. In its 2005 follow-up audit, the Auditor traced some of UH’s management failures to their lack of rules. In 2009, the legislature passed Act 132, which granted UH authority to adopt rules “relating to public and commercial activities permitted or occurring on the Mauna Kea lands.” The legislature found rules were necessary to protect cultural and natural resources and to ensure public health and safety.

In 2011, UH drafted rules that were unacceptable. In 2015, UH attempted to enforce “emergency rules” that were transparently directed against the kia‘i of Mauna Kea, resulting in 15 arrests and 6 citations. The Flores-Case ‘Ohana successfully challenged the emergency rules in court and Judge Ibarra ruled them invalid.

In June 2018, despite strong public opposition and the misgivings of its own members, the UH Board of Regents authorized University of Hawai‘i Office of Mauna Kea Management to move forward with the formal process to create rules governing Mauna Kea summit lands. Many of the Regents reasoned that the public vetting process would fix issues with the rules. And that is just what we’re now attempting to do.