UH Regents approve stewardship resolution, rules on management for Mauna Kea

Updated: Nov. 7, 2019 at 8:08 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - New rules for Mauna Kea have been approved by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

The Board of Regents heard from 99 people over 11 hours at UH Hilo Wednesday. The focus of much of the day was dedicated to a proposed set of rules for management of Mauna Kea.

After testifiers shared their thoughts, the board voted unanimously to pass a stewardship resolution with just one amendment: The requirement that groups of 10 or more must register before entering UH-managed areas was dropped. They also passed the new rules for managing Mauna Kea.

[To view the proposed rules, click here. They can be found on page 627.]

Of the more than 100 people who signed up to testify at the Hilo meeting, most were against the proposal.

Other guidelines aim to limit the number of vehicles and amount of commercial activity on the mountain. But critics say the rules would also limit cultural practitioners.

The university says the rules are intended to manage public and commercial activities as well as protect natural resources. They also say they’re unrelated to the Thirty Meter Telescope.

“They manage access to the extent that they focus on impacts to resources, so the rules are agnostic to the nature of the activity," said Greg Chun, UH executive director of Mauna Kea stewardship. “What we are charged with doing is protecting cultural, natural and scientific resources.”

The proposal includes a stewardship resolution, which leaders from the Mauna Kea Observatories came out against. The resolution calls for decommissioning five telescopes.

“In regards to the resolution that directs that a new telescope be built at Hale Pohaku for the new Hoku Kea telescope ... There shall be no further telescope facility built on Mauna Kea,” said practitioner Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, who testified before the board.

Meanwhile, it’s not sitting well with astronomers who call the resolution cruel, unwise and rushed.

“To see the observatory announced for premature decommissioning without warning or consultation without regards to their livelihoods or their success has been a cruel blow,” said Jessica Dempsey, of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.

Native Hawaiian activists also aren’t fully satisfied because it doesn’t cancel the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The resolution goes into effect immediately, but the rules still need approval from Gov. David Ige.

This story will be updated.

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