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Hawaii Board of Land & Natural Resources Hears Final Arguments in Conservation District Use Permit Contested Case

The process to secure a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) to build TMT on Maunakea continued in Hawaii, as the state land board – also known as the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) – heard final oral arguments from all parties involved in the contested case.

The hearing at the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo on Hawaii Island allowed the Board to listen to both sides of the debate on whether Board members should issue a CDUP to the University of Hawaii – Hilo to allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.

After nearly five months of evidentiary hearings that ran from October 2016 to March 2017, contested case Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano released a 305-page report recommending the state land board issue the CDUP. As required by law, today’s hearing afforded the seven-member state land board the opportunity to hear directly from the 23 participating contested case parties before deciding on the permit.

The proceedings were open to the public. Each of the 23 parties involved were given 15 minutes to make their case on whether the CDUP should be issued or rejected.

The three parties in support of TMT – University of Hawaii at Hilo, TMT International Observatory, and the Native Hawaiian group PUEO (Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities) – were first to give their oral arguments, followed by the project opponents. Oral arguments were followed by rebuttals, along with follow-up questions by the state land board.

BLNR will now review and take into consideration all of the arguments, as well as Judge Amano’s report before making their final decision on the CDUP.

Following the hearing, TMT International Observatory Executive Director Ed Stone said:

“This is an important day for TMT with the conclusion of the second contested case related to the Conservation District Use Permit needed for TMT to be built on Maunakea. We deeply appreciate the time and attention given by both the Board of Land & Natural Resources and Judge Riki May Amano in considering whether a state permit should be granted.

“Everyone had the opportunity to be heard as part of the process, and we are hopeful that the Board will act quickly on its decision and that it will be a positive one for TMT. We thank all of our supporters and friends who have been with us during the hearing process over the past 10 years.”


All University of Hawaii-managed lands on Maunakea, including the site for TMT, are in a conservation district, which requires a Conservation District Use Permit approved by the BLNR. In April 2013, following a contested case hearing that took seven days over the course of two months, the BLNR issued a CDUP to the University of Hawaii at Hilo for the construction of TMT on Maunakea.

In late 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the permit stating that at the time the permit was initially granted, a contested case hearing was also approved, as was a stay on construction pending the outcome of the contested case hearing. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Hawaii Circuit Court and instructed that a new contested case hearing be conducted before the Board.

That second contested case got underway in October 2016. Following 44 days of testimony by 71 witnesses over five months, that hearing concluded in early March 2017.

Over the last 10 years, TMT has followed the state’s laws, procedures and processes in its efforts to build TMT on Maunakea. More than 20 public hearings have been held since 2008. An EIS was completed and approved. For the complete process, visit

What’s Next

The BLNR will review all evidence and issue its decision. An exact timeframe is not known.

TMT is also awaiting resolution on the state’s consent to the University of Hawaii’s sublease to the TMT International Observatory.

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