Astronomy

UH Regents Approve New Maunakea Master Plan

January 20, 2022, 5:23 PM HST
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The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents during its meeting Thursday adopted the new Master Plan for UH-managed lands on Maunakea.

The new plan replaces the Master Plan regents adopted in 2000 and does not result in the approval, adoption or funding of new projects or land uses.

The new Master Plan will serve as a framework for aligning land-use decisions consistent with UH’s mission and purpose. Its overarching goals are related to responsible stewardship, maintaining leadership in astronomy, diversifying educational pursuits and seeking balance among those who come to Maunakea.

The plan’s strategies include broadening Native Hawaiian and community participation in planning and programming; measures to reduce impacts to the cultural landscape and natural resources, especially in the summit region, by limiting development; and repurposing the Halepōhaku mid-level facility into a multidisciplinary field station.

About 150 people submitted written testimony to the Board of Regents in connection with the new Master Plan, a majority in support, and about 30 provided oral testimony, predominantly opposing the plan. Most of the opposition was not related directly to the plan but focused on other Maunakea-related issues, including the Thirty Meter Telescope, the state House of Representatives Mauna Kea Working Group draft report, the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and whether astronomy and the existence of telescopes should continue on the summit.

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The university also received more than 1,450 comments about the draft of the new plan during a more than month-long public comment period that ended in late October.

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“The issues we have to resolve — historical issues, best management of Maunakea — this plan is not going to fix them,” said UH Regent Alapaki Nahale-a, who voted in favor of the plan. “I hope that for us, as regents, and for those watching, we don’t continue to practice votes like this, meaning no one is listening and no one cares. I hope those who are concerned and hurt will still have a conversation about how we can do better.”

Greg Chun, executive director of the UH-Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship, which is responsible for administering the plan along with the Comprehensive Management Plan and administrative rules, agreed.

“These are important issues that go beyond the question of management that the state of Hawaiʻi and the broader community needs to discuss,” said Chun after the Board of Regents meeting Thursday.

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The purpose of the 65-year lease granted to UH by the state in 1968 was to operate the Maunakea Science Reserve as a scientific complex to establish astronomy in Hawaiʻi. The 1998 state audit critical of the university’s overall management of the mauna made it clear that the privilege of stewardship carries an even greater responsibility to care for Maunakea, which led to the development of the management plans, establishment of the Maunakea Rangers, greater protection of natural and cultural resources and other stewardship improvements.

The Master Plan adopted was finalized after extensive consultation and public outreach by UH, during which input and advice was sought from individuals, groups and agencies, such as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Maunakea Management Board and Kahu Kū Mauna.

In addition to the Master Plan, Comprehensive Management Plan and administrative rules, four subplans (public access, cultural resources management, natural resources management and observatory decommissioning) address activities that include hunting, gathering, recreation and traditional and customary practices. The administrative rules cover public and commercial activities.

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