Protecting Mauna Kea: Why Engaging in Friday's BLNR Decision Matters

Posted by Lauren Muneoka at Mar 23, 2023 02:06 AM |
This Friday, BLNR plans to deny Laulani Teale's request for a contested case hearing on the "supplement" to the (awful) Comprehensive Management Plan (we'll call it CMP-S). This means the CMP-S will be implemented without any real review by those committed to protecting the sacred summit of Mauna Kea. In this blog post, we explore why it is essential to engage in this decision-making process and offer practical steps to take action.

What's happening

The BLNR and the University of Hawaiʻi are using the 2009 Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) to justify a wide range of draconian restrictions on Native Hawaiian cultural practice on Mauna Kea. But because a lot has changed since 2009, they are supplementing it with a document approved in July 2022. Laulani Teale followed the proper process to seek a more thorough and thoughtful review of this document by those directly affected by this supplement, called a “contested case hearing.”

None of us are surprised to learn that BLNR plans to deny Laulani Teale’s request for a contested case hearing on the “supplement” to the (awful) Comprehensive Management Plan (we’ll call it CMP-S) at their March 24, 2023 meeting. This means the CMP-S will be implemented without any real review by those committed to protecting the sacred summit of Mauna Kea.

Why this is important

There are many reasons it is important to engage on this BLNR decision on Friday.

First, the CMP-S dramatically increases the risk of severe restrictions on the constitutionally protected rights of Native Hawaiians to access, worship, and gather on Mauna Kea. This is a continuation of cultural genocide by regulating traditional practices out of existence. The CMP sets up a confrontational dynamic between cultural practitioners and Rangers.

Second, this is a real test for the newly appointed Director of DLNR, Dawn Chang. Dawn Chang authored the CMP in 2009, promising everyone that it would not be used to justify the TMT’s construction. But it has been used repeatedly to do just that. Now, Ms. Chang will be in the position to enforce the CMP if she is confirmed as Director by the Senate this legislative session. People have mixed feelings about Dawn Chang’s work over the years, and her commitment to protect the interests of the lāhui. She has helped the military, developers, and other major institutions to “handle” community opposition. Her work helped disinter hundreds of Native Hawaiian burials at Kawaiahaʻo. How she handles this important procedural decision on Friday will be one test people can use to assess how she will be as the Director for the next four years.

Third, the CMP-S rolls back institutional protections for vulnerable natural and cultural resources that were added to the original CMP in an effort to gain public support for the document. They are going back on their word to support designation of Mauna Kea as a Traditional Cultural Property (again - surprise, surprise).

We may not be able to stop them from doing this, but at the very least we must register our dissent. The future will benefit from knowing that we did not consent to the way BLNR and UH are trying to “manage” Mauna Kea.

What you can do now

Submit written testimony:

Email both BLNR ( and Shelley ( so we know they got your testimony. You can use the talking points below for help with writing.

Watch the hearing on YouTube:

Spread the word:

Tell your friends and family about the latest shenanigans at the BLNR. Make sure to mention that the new BLNR Chair, Dawn Chang, who wrote the first CMP will be in a position to enforce it if she is confirmed by the Senate.

5 Talking Points

  1. BLNR contends UH management of Mauna Kea does not affect the property rights of Native Hawaiians. Clearly they are wrong.
    1. a. All Native Hawaiians have an interest in protecting the property of their illegally overthrown government. It is well-known that the mauna is crown and government lands.
      b. Cultural practitioners have an additional interest because they rely on access to the mauna, and the natural and cultural resources there for their way of life.

  2. The MK rules seek to impose permitting requirements on cultural access to Mauna Kea. This is highly problematic.
      a. Who is BLNR or UH to decide who is a cultural practitioner and who is not?
      b. What will stop them from trying to abuse permitting to actually prevent Native Hawaiian cultural access?

  3. This plan rolls back key commitments made in the previous CMP to protect the natural and cultural resources of the mauna.
      a. The CMP-S no longer supports designation of the entire summit as a Traditional Cultural Property.

  4. BLNR's process is all messed up.
      a. BLNR is denying this request for a contested case without giving the requester an opportunity to demonstrate she has standing.
      b. When KAHEA challenged the CMP in court in 2009, the appeals court said now is not the time, your rights will be affected when rules are made. Well, rules have been adopted, they incorporated the CMP and CMP-S. So now is the time the court was pointing us to.
      c. At the same time, BLNR is saying this supplement to the CMP does not actually do anything so does not affect the requester’s rights, when in reality it does a lot. For example, the Outcome Analysis Report (OAR, an attachment to the CMP) points to the CMP as justification for removing ahu.
      d. If now is not the time to challenge the CMP, then when is the right time? When the rangers are tearing down the next ahu at 4 AM?

  5. Where’s the community consultation?
      a. BLNR and UH did not hold any community consultation meetings on this supplement to the CMP. One meeting at the Board of Regents and one meeting at BLNR – with only a few days notice for each and both held in Honolulu – does not qualify as real community consultation.
      b. This document is huge and convoluted. It is difficult to decipher. It is reasonable to seek more time to review and improve the document. Unless of course they aren’t actually interested in having this CMPS reflect community input.
      c. We know that for the outcome to be pono, the process must be pono. And this process continues to get farther and farther from pono with every decision they make.

Go deep: Highlights (lowlights?) from the CMP-S

Direct quotes from the CMP and associated reports are italicized here. Our comments appear in plain text.

The CMP/OAR (Outcome Analysis Report, which is included as an attachment to the CMP) is the source of authority for removing ahu and other acts of desecration. This is a really serious problem because it vests the CMP with undue authority. None of these decisions go before the BLNR. It’s not clear who decides when and where desecration is warranted.

Example: “During the large-scale protests that took place on Maunakea in reaction to the start of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project construction, protesters erected many temporary ahu and other structures. Most of these were removed following the protest period in accordance with approved, CMP-identified guidelines and policies, and no formal documentation of them exists.” OAR p 129

The CMP-S would impose excessive limitations on cultural practitioners. It is very problematic that the CMP distinguishes astronomy personnel from the general public, but does not separate cultural practitioners from the general public. This means that the rules imposed on tourists would be imposed on Hawaiian practitioners, but not on astronomers and their staff. These restrictions would interrupt traditional cultural and customary practices passed through the ages since time immemorial.

<️p>Examples: "Limit access by private vehicles” p63 - This, in practice, exempts astronomy personnel but not cultural practitioners. These practices have been a major point of contention and disrespect for decades.

“Limit public access hours” p63 and “Confining…stargazing activities to previously disturbed areas and established parking areas (ACT-7)” p24. Many star-related practices rely on alignment of natural features at all hours of the day and night, and off existing trails. These restrictions would seriously undermine cultural practices.

"UH is actively enforcing the provisions of HAR § 20-26-21(10), which specifically prohibits hiking, conducting nature study, or conducting any activity on puʻu unless on designated trails or roads, except by written permit." p66 Culturally important medicines are gathered off-trail.

“Install a gate or other control structure to manage vehicular access to the UH Management Areas.” p62

The CMP-S sets up a direct conflict between Rangers and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.


The CMP-S describes Rangers as “a mix of enforcement and interpretive rangers” that “deter violations and encourage adherence to restrictions.” and “provide a presence of interpretive and compliance personnel on the mountain. “p65

The CMP-S describes Rangers as “a mix of enforcement and interpretive rangers” that “deter violations and encourage adherence to restrictions.” and “provide a presence of interpretive and compliance personnel on the mountain. “p65

The CMP would have “Rangers periodically monitor and patrol recreational trails.”

All of these examples would seriously disrupt cultural and spiritual practices, which are often off-trail and not during normal business hours. Interfering with the sanctity of space is hewa. We really do not want to see anyone when we are in prayer. Much less an armed enforcer, who cannot tell an established cultural practitioner from a clueless tourist. Not all cultural practitioners are “Kūʻē every day” warriors. Many are extremely sensitive, and their practices are endangered and fragile. Many people will not go into a space where there is a chance of an encounter like this. This means that colonial displacement of Indigenous practitioners is taking place, which could very likely lead to the permanent loss of certain important ancient practices.

Rangers enforcing CDUP: “8.4.5 P-7: REVIEW FACILITY COMPLIANCE WITH CDUPS As discussed in Section of the 2021 OAR, UH has developed a protocol for the Rangers to conduct biennial inspections of all the facilities within the UH Management Areas for which CDUP conditions exist. These twice-yearly inspections will continue. The Rangers will confirm that permit conditions and sublease terms are being met during their inspections. CMS will submit Ranger reports summarizing the inspections to DLNR as part of its annual reporting;” p74

“CMS [Center for Maunakea Stewardship] will inform DLNR within 30 days if known or suspected non-compliance or violations are encountered by the Rangers during the inspections and they cannot be corrected promptly. This monitoring promotes responsible stewardship, helps minimize the potential for damage to Maunakea, and allows UH to detect and report infractions to DLNR.

During these inspections the Rangers will also ask the operators to confirm that the facilities are complying with applicable laws and regulations, including those listed in Section 8.4.1, and other provisions of the CMP. This assessment will cover a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, evaluating if the facilities are:

• Properly storing hazardous materials, not storing unnecessary quantities of hazardous materials, and maintaining appropriate spill response equipment and materials.

• Adhering to manufacturer’s maintenance and clean-out schedules and permit conditions related to their individual wastewater systems.

• Maintaining all exterior trash cans and dumpsters, if any, with effective lid closure mechanisms designed to withstand high winds.

The Rangers will also ask facility operators about other compliance issues. If any are identified, the Rangers will note this in their reports and request that the operators provide information directly to CMS. If there are still-unresolved compliance issues, CMS will follow up with the operators as appropriate to ensure that compliance issues are resolved in a timely fashion in accordance with applicable CMP management actions, permit conditions, and/or sublease terms.” p74-75

Who is training Rangers to do all of this? The Rangers struggle to distinguish tourists from established Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.

In addition, Rangers will be keeping photo and video documentation of cultural practitioners, which not only invades their privacy, but further extinguishes their efforts to continue the ancient practices of their ancestors.

Go even deeper: The most relavant links

Agenda for Friday, March 24, 2023 BLNR meeting:

Staff submittal on Agenda Item K-1 - Denial of Contested Case Request HA 23-1 by Laulani Teale regarding the Approval of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan 2022 Supplement:

CMP Supplement Vol I (372 pages):

CMP Supplement Vol II (371 pages): (that is a total of 743 pages, btw)

General CMP Page with other relevant links:

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