Video source: Occupy Hilo
HILO – The chair of the Mauna Kea advisory group to the University of Hawaii said he is offended by Governor David Ige’s request that the management of 10,000 acres of mountain land leased by UH be returned to the jurisdiction of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Gregory Mooers, the chair of the Mauna Kea Management Board, let his thoughts be known on August 25th during a MKMB meeting in Hilo. “What is (the govnernor) saying about the work that you’ve done?” Mooers asked the room of board members, some of whom also serve or have served on the Kahu Kū Mauna Council. The council advises MKMB and the university’s Office of Mauna Kea Management – or OMKM – on all cultural matters affecting the mountain
MKMB members serve as advisors to the university chancellor and Board of Regents. Generally speaking, OMKM and MKMB are advocates for astronomy at the Mauna Kea summit, one of the best places in the world to study the cosmos. The university leases the summit land under an agreement with the state and in turn subleases to numerous world class observatories. Under the lease agreement with the state, the university through OMKM manages the mountain following its state-approved Comprehensive Management Plan.
Astronomy in the summit’s conservation district is a permitted but contentious use. Environmentalists say the summit has become too industrialized. Hawaiian cultural practitioners hold the mountain sacred. Sovereignty proponents say the state lacks proper title to the lands. The arguement has gone on for decades.
Most recently, the planned $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope project has ignited passionate opposition. A months-long blockade of TMT construction crews on the summit access road has led to numerous arrests. In response, Governor David Ige tried to find compromise by creating a plan to “change the management of the entire summit, all of which is state land, to bring cultural voices into the leadership structure so that all acts from here forward are sensitive to and observant of culture.” Among a list of 10 requests made by Governor Ige: the voluntarily return to full DLNR jurisdiction “all lands not specifically needed for astronomy.”
The governor maintains state support of the TMT project, which obtained approvals and the right to proceed. “I do not doubt that they did more than any previous telescope to be a good neighbor,” Ige said. TMT opponents have countered that anything short of stopping the project is unacceptable.
Now, the Mauna Kea Management Board is voicing its concern with the idea as well.
MKMB Chair Gregory Mooers said that UH is likely to be pleased with the reduction of management responsibility, which frees the university up to concentrate efforts on the smaller astronomy precinct. But Mooers wonders if the state – with its limited resources – is up to the task of taking care of the remaining 10,000 acres. The board decided to draft a letter asking the university to seek clarification from the state on certain aspects of the governor’s request, which they find problematic. “What’s your plan?” Mooers wondered of the state. “How are you gonna fund it? What the application of the CMP? Does the university have a role now – at all – in these 10,000 acres?”