(BIVN) – The temporary closure of hunting on Mauna Kea was a topic of discussion Tuesday night at the Hawaiʻi County Game Management Advisory Commission meeting in Hilo.
On July 10, during a news conference held to announce the Thirty Meter Telescope construction start date, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said she ordered the temporary closure of hunting units A, K, and G in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and Natural Area Reserve for hunting. “This means hunting and hunting related activities in the identified hunting units will not be permitted from July 15, 2019, at 12:01 a.m. through August 12, 2019, at 11:59 p.m.” the DLNR wrote.
“The closure can be shortened if circumstances warrant,” DLNR stated. “Anyone who is in the closure area with methods of take such as firearms or bows can be cited or arrested by State law enforcement officers and face fines and/or jail time.”
Since that time, TMT opponents have held their ground on the Mauna Kea Access Road, preventing the observatory construction crews from ascending the mountain.
“It’s not looking like this is gonna get any better, any time soon,” said Willie-Joe Camara, a former GMAC commissioner, who spoke on Tuesday evening. “I’m sure they’re gonna extend that closure,” and he said there are concerns “that this is gonna run into bird season and that’s gonna be really a bad deal.”
DLNR said the closure was done in “an effort to protect public safety and provide security and safety for the movement of heavy construction equipment associated with” the TMT project.
The closure is just the latest frustration for the local hunting community. “It’s the same thing that’s happening up on the mountain right now,” Camara said of the current TMT unrest. “Years of government just pushing things down our throat that we don’t necessarily think is good, or right. They call it a process, but yet the process is flawed.”
“I can sympathize with those people up there because we’ve been dealing with the same thing with our hunting for all these years,” Camara said. “From the eradication of the sheep, from the taking away of all the mountain in Hakalau. They take all this away from us, but yet, what what are they doing in there? Nothing really, they’re not putting nothing back that wasn’t there already.”
GMAC commissioner Teresa Nakama said the closures are “blocking us access to areas that is nowhere near the TMT or the access road. I mean, it’s miles away. It makes no common sense.”
“How do we feed our family?” Nakama asked. “They are prohibiting us and constitutionally denying us. And they’re violating the Constitution of Article 12 section 7.”
Nakama urged her fellow commissioners to help her contact the state concerning their issue. “This is what this body is for, it’s about communicating what we represent in our community,” she said.