Mauna Kea Timeline

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Disclaimer: THIS TIMELINE DOES NOT PURPORT TO BE A COMPREHENSIVE ACCOUNTING OF ALL EVENTS RELATED TO THE MISMANAGEMENT OR PROTECTION OF MAUNA KEA. The specific events called out in this timeline are relevant to OHA’s history and its current litigation regarding the mismanagement and protection of Mauna Kea.
  • 1893 – Illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom
  • 1898 – Hawaiʻi is annexed by the U.S. Congress and 1.8 million acres of Hawaiian government and crown lands (i.e., “ceded” lands) are transferred to the United States as a “special trust.”
  • 1959 – As a condition of statehood, the U.S. Congress transferred most of the ceded lands to the newly formed State of Hawaiʻi with the stipulation that they would be held by the state as a public trust for five specific purposes – one of which is the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians. Mauna Kea is part of the ceded lands trust and was designated by the state as a conservation district under the management of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
  • 1964 – The University of Hawaiʻi (UH) identifies Mauna Kea as possessing exceptional conditions for astronomy.
  • 1968 – 13,321 acres of ceded land at the summit of Mauna Kea is leased to UH by the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) for a period of 65 years, from Jan. 1, 1968 to Dec. 31, 2033. The general lease executed between them allows UH to enter into sublease agreements. Over the next 20 years, six telescopes are built without proper permits.
  • 1974 – UH enters into a sublease with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for a rental fee of $1 for the entire 60-year lease period. It expires in December 2033, as do nearly all subsequent subleases.
  • 1975 – UH enters into a sublease with Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope Corporation (CFHTC). No rent is charged.
  • 1976 – UH enters into a sublease with the Science Research Council (SRC). In lieu of rent, UH receives 15% of the observing time.
  • 1978 – (September) UH enters into a second sublease with SRC. In lieu of rent, UH again receives 15% of the observing time.
  • 1978 – (September) The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is created and charged with managing 20% of proceeds derived from the ceded lands trust during a constitutional convention, thus clarifying the state’s trust obligation to Native Hawaiians.
  • 1979 – Legislation is enacted establishing the purpose of OHA to better conditions for Native Hawaiians and codifying that it is the responsibility of the state to cooperate with and support OHA.
  • 1980 – UH enters into a five-year sublease with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. No rent is charged.
  • 1983 – UH enters into a sublease with the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) for an annual rental fee of $1.
  • 1984 – UH enters into a sublease with the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) for an annual rental fee of $1.
  • 1985 – BLNR approves UH’s Mauna Kea Complex Development Plan which allows up to 13 telescopes to be built by 2000.
  • 1990 – UH enters into a sublease with the Associated Universities, Inc./National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) for an annual rental fee of $1.
  • 1992 – UH enters into a sublease with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) for an annual rental fee of $1.
  • 1994 – UH enters into a sublease with the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an annual rental fee of $1.
  • 1994 – (December) The state adopts rules for conservation districts prohibiting subleasing and/or approval of any project on that land that will have adverse and significant impact to the area’s natural and cultural resources.
  • 1995 – UH enters into a sublease with the Smithsonian Institution for an annual rental fee of $1.
  • 1998 – The first legislature-ordered audit report on the managment of Mauna Kea by BLNR and UH is issued. It (and three subsequent reports) found serious management defects.
  • 1999 – There are now 24 telescope structures on Mauna Kea, and infrastructure for 12 more. NASA and UH propose to build another four to six telescopes, finding no significant impact to Mauna Kea based on a short environmental assessment (EA).
  • 1999 – A second general lease for Mauna Kea is executed between BLNR and UH in combination with the first lease extending UH control of the summit through Feb. 27, 2041.
  • 2000 – The 2000 Master Plan is developed by UH. It establishes an Office of Mauna Kea Management administered through UH Hilo. The plan allows for a minimum of 40 new telescopes.
  • 2002 – OHA sues NASA and UH on behalf Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Royal Order of Kamehameha and others, asking the Court to force NASA to provide a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by federal law. Decided in 2003, OHA’s lawsuit was successful and prevented construction of additional telescopes on Mauna Kea.
  • 2003 – A nonprofit partnership is formed between astronomers in California, Japan, China, India and Canada to design a massive telescope. That partnership evolved into the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) International Observatory, LLC.
  • 2004 – (October) Before UH and NASA complete the EIS, BLNR grants them a permit to build the Keck Outrigger Telescope.
  • 2004 – (November) Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Royal Order of Kamehameha,, the Sierra Club and several individuals file a lawsuit against BLNR for violating the laws that protect Mauna Kea as a conservation district.
  • 2005 – (February) NASA issues its final EIS concluding that the cumulative impact of 30 years of astronomy activity has caused “significant, substantial and adverse” harm to Mauna Kea.
  • 2005 – The second legislature-ordered audit report on the managment of Mauna Kea by BLNR and UH is issued.
  • 2007 – The Third Circuit Court rules in favor of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, et. al. The decision revokes the conservation district use permit issued by BLNR to build the Keck Outrigger telescope and invalidates UH’s 2000 Master Plan.
  • 2009 – TMT identifies Mauna Kea as its first-choice location for their telescope. At the time, OHA Trustees adopted a motion to support Mauna Kea as the site for the TMT.
  • 2011 – BLNR issues a building permit to TMT.
  • 2014 – (July) UH enters into a sublease with the TMT. Annual rent is $300,000/year for the first three years increasing every two years. At year 10 rent increases to $1,080,000/year.
  • 2014 – (October) TMT groundbreaking is halted after kiaʻi block the roadway. This action garnered the issue worldwide attention and support.
  • 2014 – The third legislature-ordered audit report on the managment of Mauna Kea by BLNR and UH is issued.
  • 2015 – (March and April) Kiaʻi delay TMT construction via multiple blockades and occupations.
  • 2015 – (April) UH, BLNR and TMT enter into their “Consent to Sublease and Non-exclusive Easement Agreement.”
  • 2015 – (April) OHA Trustees rescind their support of Mauna Kea as the location for the TMT project.
  • 2015 – (June) OHA approaches Gov. David Ige, BLNR and UH to discuss proper management of Mauna Kea.
  • 2015 – (December) The Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court rescinds TMT’s building permit saying BLNR failed to follow due process in 2011.
  • 2017 – The fourth legislature-ordered audit report on the managment of Mauna Kea by BLNR and UH is issued.
  • 2017 – (September) BLNR approves a revised building permit for TMT. Conditions of the permit include removal of three existing telescopes and an assertion that TMT will be the last telescope built on Mauna Kea.
  • 2017 – (November) OHA files a complaint with the First Circuit Court (“Mauna Kea Lawsuit”) when no meaningful improvement to the management of Mauna Kea is evidenced after two years of discussion.
  • 2018 – Nine bills pertaining to Mauna Kea are introduced at the state legislature, including SB 3090 which proposed creating a “Mauna Kea Management Authority.” SB 3090 did not pass.
  • 2018 – (October) The Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court rules that the revised building permit for TMT is acceptable.
  • 2019 – (July 10) It is announced that construction of TMT will commence on July 15, 2019.
  • 2019 – (July 15) On the day construction of TMT is set to resume, kiaʻi block access to the summit because BLNR failed to require TMT and NSF to abide by federal historic preservation laws and stop desecration of Mauna Kea.
  • 2019 – (July 17) Nearly 40 kūpuna are arrested as “protestors.” Over the next eight months thousands of Native Hawaiians and global supporters kākoʻo the occupation of the mauna. The non-violent occupation ended in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
  • 2021 – The legislature convenes a working group on Mauna Kea via a House Resolution. The report and recommendations were due December 2021.
  • 2022 – HB 2024 to establish the “Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority” (MKSOA) is introduced at the legislature. The bill changes dramatically throughout the legislative review process. It is signed into law as Act 255 by Gov. David Ige in July 2022 establishing MKSOA as a state agency and the eventual “trustee” of Mauna Kea.
  • 2022 – (December) BLNR files a motion to dismiss OHA’s 2017 Mauna Kea Lawsuit, arguing that Act 255 rendered it moot.
  • 2023 – (July) MKSOA begins its joint management of Mauna Kea with UH. Joint management terminates in July 2028, at which time MKSOA will become the sole authority for management of Mauna Kea.
  • 2023 – (April) BLNR’s motion to dismiss OHA’s Mauna Kea Lawsuit is denied by Judge Jeffrey Crabtree.
  • 2023 – (October) Judge Jeffrey Crabtree adds MKSOA as a defendant in the Mauna Kea Lawsuit.
  • 2023 – (December) Mauna Kea is formally listed as a traditional cultural property on the Hawaiʻi Register of Historic Places.
  • 2024 – (January) OHA files a complaint in First Circuit Court seeking repeal of Act 255 to ensure that BLNR and UH, not MKSOA, will be held accountable for mismanagement of the mauna when OHA’s 2017 lawsuit goes to trial in July 2024.

National Science Foundation Section 106 Process

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is considering investment in the construction and operation of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires federal agencies to identify and assess the effects any project, activity, or program funded in whole or in part by a federal agency may have on historic properties. Each federal agency must consider public views and concerns about historic preservation issues.

Right now, NSF is identifying consulting parties to engage with during the Section 106 consultation process under the NHPA. NSF anticipates that Section 106 meetings will be held during the first half of 2024.

There are four roles (categories) identified by NSF:

  • Native Hawaiian Organizations that attribute religious/cultural significance to land potentially impacted by TMT.
  • Representatives of local government with jurisdiction in the area affected by TMT.
  • Individuals/organizations with a vested interest in TMT due to legal, economic, or historical property concerns.
  • Applicants for federal funding related to the TMT project.

For more information – or to participate in these meetings and make your voice heard – go to: https://new.nsf.gov/funding/environmental-compliance/thirty-meter-telescope