Update on Maunakea stewardship

UH President David Lassner: UH must move beyond its strengths in astronomy and continue to improve protection of Maunakea’s environment and cultural resources.

An update on the University of Hawaiʻi’s ongoing efforts to improve its stewardship of Maunakea was presented to the UH Board of Regents on June 7, 2018. The update included steps on how the university was honoring the board’s 2017 resolution affirming collaborative stewardship of the mauna (mountain).

David Lassner
David Lassner

UH President David Lassner says UH must move beyond its strengths in astronomy and continue to improve protection of Maunakea’s environment and cultural resources. “It needs to be clear to the public and the community that we are listening to what we hear and that our actions moving forward show how we are making your resolution and our verbal commitments in the past, real. (We need a) a stronger emphasis on cultural practice, history and education as co-equals with the work we have been doing so far. Balanced stewardship is absolutely essential.”

Administrative rules for the public and commercial activities

The university is proceeding with the administrative rules process for public and commercial activities on Maunakea.

“Rules provide the opportunity for us to implement regulations and rates for commercial tour operators,” says Lassner. “This is also the means for us to control excessive traffic on the mountain, which we are often criticized for not doing. The rules themselves are the single most significant, outstanding action remaining from the 2014 audit, which otherwise was fairly complimentary of our stewardship.”

At the meeting, the regents approved a request to Governor David Ige to allow UH to hold public hearings on the administrative rules.

Maunakea senior advisor

Greg Chun
Greg Chun

Maunakea Management Board Chair and UH faculty member Greg Chun was appointed senior advisor on Maunakea in February 2018 and has assumed a major role in advising UH leadership.

Environmental Impact Statement

The public comments were gathered at three open houses in March and a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently in development. The EIS will be used for the proposed new land authorization to replace the two existing leases and easement for UH managed lands on Maunakea.

Cultural resources management

The actions to protect Native Hawaiian cultural resources were developed by Kahu Kū Mauna and approved by the Maunakea Management Board in May 2018. This was identified as an outstanding item in the state auditor’s 2017 Follow-Up Audit of the Management of Mauna Kea.

Maunakea Management Board

In the spirit of collaborative stewardship, President Lassner and UH Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai sent requests for suggested nominees to serve on the Maunakea Management Board to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Department of Land and Natural Resources, the three Hawaiʻi Island chambers of commerce, Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim and the Hawaiʻi Island state lawmakers.

Telescope decommissioning

An announcement on a new site for the Hokukea teaching telescope is expected by the end of the year, and the latest on the CalTech Submillimeter decommissioning process.

Telescope lease payments

Discussions have begun with the Maunakea observatories regarding increasing sub lease payments to support stewardship and additional community benefits. All current leases, except for TMT‘s, were entered into last century in good faith, and remain binding in effect. The university does not intend to renege on those legal agreements. The observatories know that the lease negotiated for TMT, which provides for up to a million dollars a year in lease rent and a comparable community benefits package, is the model for future leases.

Enhancing education and culture on the mountain

UH is committed to strengthening visitor education on the mauna and planning has begun for a new culture and education center at the mid-level facilities where the Maunakea Visitor Information Station is currently located.

“This is an inspiring but daunting task before us,” said Lassner. “The challenges are certainly great but the opportunities are even greater for us as we move forward.”

 

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