New legislation would reform management of Mauna Kea

Your top local headlines for Jan. 26, 2022.
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 4:32 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2022 at 5:06 AM HST
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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers have submitted legislation that would create a nine-member governing body for Mauna Kea’s summit, where astronomers want to build a new telescope opposed by Native Hawaiian activists.

The bill introduced in the state House of Representatives would require a new stewardship authority to limit the development of astronomy on the mountain. The body would also establish a plan to return the mountain to its natural state above 9,200 feet (2,800 meters), though the legislation doesn’t set a time frame for doing so.

The governing body would include Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and those with land management experience.

Astronomers wouldn’t have a seat on the body, but the authority would establish an advisory group that would provide guidance on astronomy.

Lawmakers drafted the bill in response to a report compiled by a working group formed by House leadership last year. The legislation has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Mauna Kea’s summit has about a dozen telescopes that are among the world’s most advanced observatories.

Many Native Hawaiians consider the summit sacred and say the telescopes desecrate the land.

In 2019, more than 2,000 protesters gathered at Mauna Kea to block the construction of a new observatory called the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.