A decade plus of stewardship of Maunakea

The 2009 Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan and its four sub plans—management of cultural and natural resources, decommissioning of telescopes, and public access—are guides on moving forward.

By Stephanie Nagata, Director of the Office of Maunakea Management.

Maunakea with Hilo Bay in the foreground.
Maunakea and Hilo Bay. Photo by Prayitno via Flickr.
Stephanie Nagata
Stephanie Nagata

The mission of the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM) is to achieve harmony, balance and trust in the sustainable management and stewardship of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve through community involvement and programs that protect, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Maunakea while providing a world-class center dedicated to education, research and astronomy.

Achieving harmony, balance and trust is challenging given wide-ranging cultural, scientific and community interests coupled with the turbulence we’ve all witnessed, but we continue our focus on doing what’s right for Maunakea.

Recent news making events have detracted from the great strides in the management of Maunakea by OMKM, Maunakea Management Board, Kahu Kū Mauna and community volunteers over the past 16 years.

We are filled with an even greater sense of kuleana, of responsibility, to fulfill our mission on Maunakea. Over the years, we have implemented numerous management initiatives resulting in positive change in the 11,300-acre science reserve.

Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan

The 2009 Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan, and its four sub plans focusing on the management of cultural and natural resources, decommissioning of telescopes, and public access, guide us on our path moving forward. These management plans were approved after an open and transparent public process that included extensive consultation with many stakeholders.

Weed pulls—Here’s an example of how natural resources are being preserved and protected on Maunakea. Community members have rallied behind our Mālama Maunakea initiatives that focus on invasive species weed pulls and replanting the endangered silversword. This work, done by many hands, is making a difference. Over the past five years, 984 individuals have volunteered during 37 weed pulls culminating in 7,159 volunteer hours and 1,523 bags of fireweed pulled. These impressive numbers were achieved thanks to many community volunteers including chamber members. Keep the sunscreen handy as future trips to eradicate fireweed are ongoing.

Jessica and Jesse in the field, with collection baggies.
Graduate student Jessica Kirkpatrick (left) and adviser Prof. Jesse Eiben check wēkiu bug traps on Maunakea. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

Wēkiu bug conservation—Our work on the mountain is based on research to establish baseline inventories followed by monitoring of the status of the resources. Take, for example, the indigenous wēkiu bug, once a candidate for federal protection. Jesse Eiben, [an entomologist at] UH Hilo, spent a decade studying the wēkiu’s life cycle and habitat requirements. Using this knowledge and 13 years of surveys, OMKM management resource management plans and actions, prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the wēkiu bug as a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. U.S. Fish and Wildlife in their report stated, “The protection and monitoring of the wekiu bug provided through the management plans for Mauna Kea has precluded the need to list this species.”

Archaeology surveys—OMKM has also completed an archaeological inventory of the entire 11,300 acres under our management. This was no easy task. The site, the elevation and its harsh weather conditions required nearly five years to complete the inventory. We now have a documented baseline of cultural resources on the mountain. This baseline information will help us to preserve the cultural landscape for the benefit of practitioners, historians and the public.

This physical inventory complements the collection of native traditions, historical accounts and oral history previously commissioned from noted historian Kepa Maly and his Kumu Pono Associates group.

Preserving a cultural legacy

These initiatives and more are helping the Office of Maunakea Management to maintain and preserve this cultural legacy and the natural resources for future generations.


-via UH System News

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