Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

Mauna Kea is the firstborn of Papahānaumoku and Wākea and is the elder sibling of kalo and the Hawaiian people. Culturally significant places such as the “Ring of Shrines” are concentrated on the northern plateau. The many water deities who reside on Mauna Kea are a constant reminder that the mountain sits atop five aquifer systems that provide water for the entire island.

Thirteen observatories are atop Mauna Kea, but the construction of the TMT would be the largest structure in a conservation district, if it were to be built. TMT would be 18 stories tall on 5 acres (3.8 football fields) on the pristine northern plateau. In comparison, TMT would be taller than the tallest building on Hawaiʻi Island – Bayshore Towers sits at 15 stories tall. Construction would excavate 20 feet into the mountain, relocating 64,000 cubic yards of earth, taking over 4,700 dump trucks to remove earth at the TMT’s construction site.

Photo: Mauna Kea Observatories
The Puʻu Poliʻahu Lunar & Planetary Laboratory Telescope (October 14, 1964) and the present day 13 Telescope Scientific Industrial Park (2019). – Photo:
Courtesy Sen. Kaialiʻi Kahele

If built, TMT’s presence would lead to significant and adverse impacts on the environment, altering the mountain’s geology, negatively impacting animal habitats, and hindering Native Hawaiian cultural practices. A planned road extension would curtail the habitat of the Wekiu bug, an indigenous insect that was a candidate for the endangered species list in 2011. Additionally, there has not been a comprehensive study on how the telescopes would affect the water supply.

Despite DLNR’s warnings of damage to endangered plants at Puʻu Huluhulu, our kiaʻi mālama ʻāina our natural and cultural resources by conserving the native biodiversity within their moku and wahi pana. The presence of the Kānaka Rangers ensures safe access and watershed management as a result of the mismanagement and lack of education on behalf of DLNR.

The DLNR’s selective enforcement is hypocritical at best. BLNR is responsible for protecting the fragile ecosystems in conservation districts. Last month, the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court held that DLNR failed its trust duties by leasing more than 20,000 acres of land at the Pōhakuloa Training Area to the U.S. Marines for live-fire training exercises without conducting inspections of the property over the first fifty years of its lease. The Court ruled that DLNR failed to properly protect and preserve the land, as evidenced by empty shell casings, machine gun cartridge links, unfired blanks and other military training debris. DLNR continues to breach its duty as a trustee of state lands at Mauna Kea in its failure to monitoring and inspect the lands under its fiduciary duties.

Given UH’s storied history of poorly managing environmental and cultural resources and its blatant disregard to make sufficient progress on resource management plans related to their comprehensive management plans, DLNR’s selective enforcement hides efforts to exacerbate racial divisions and incite social unrest rather than recognizing a peaceful encampment of kiaʻi abiding by strict protocols of kapu aloha. The State has demonstrated its commitment to protect the interests of foreign, private corporations, rather than the rights of our own hoaʻāina who have long-protested the construction on land sacred to Kānaka Maoli, through a long, coordinated and organized mass mobilization of Hawaiʻi law enforcement and mainstream media at the expense of Hawaiʻi taxpayers.

As UH Regent Alapaki Nahale-a stated in his support for protectors, “Just because it’s scientifically sacred doesn’t mean it’s [okay] to sacrifice environmental and cultural sacredness. To dismiss the number of people who’ve gotten behind this movement as uninformed, or lawless or somehow uncaring, it’s not only ignorant, it’s offensive.”