Video by David Corrigan | Big Island Video News
Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor
The final two sub-plans of the Comprehensive Management Plan for Mauna Kea are nearing completion, and the last chance to review them is Thursday in Kona.
The Office of Mauna Kea Management is hosting the third and final open house 4:30-7 p.m. at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The first was Tuesday in Hilo.
The plans also were on display Wednesday in Waimea, with OMKM director Stephanie Nagata on hand to answer questions.
“Mauna Kea is a public resource and we are responsible for making sure the mountain is open to the public,” Nagata said. “We are very in tune with the community and want to do what is right for the whole community and the mountain.”
Nagata said her office was directed to develop four sub-plans as part of the Comprehensive Management Plan that was approved in April by the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
The first two management plans – for natural resources and for cultural resources – have been completed, although they still need the final OK from the BLNR. All four must be submitted by April 2010.
The Comprehensive Management Plan addresses multiple land uses for the state’s conservation district on Mauna Kea. Within that district is the 11,288-acre Mauna Kea Science Reserve, which is leased by the University of Hawaii.
The OMKM charged with the day-to-day management of the reserve and reports directly to UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng. Its primary goals are to protect, preserve and enhance cultural and natural resources, and monitor recreational and scientific activities.
Nagata said the office also has made it a priority to engage the community, including those who does not trust the university and believe it did not do a good job of previously managing the mountain..
“More people have become involved because they are uncertain how this might impact them,” Nagata said, noting OMKM board meetings are open to the public and the minutes are publicly available.
Upon its creation in 2000, the office established a ranger program that helps educate visitors, provides first aid and monitors commercial activity.
Currently, five rangers patrol the science reserve from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in an effort to protect people, as well as the mountain’s cultural and natural resources.
Public Access Plan
This plan sets guidelines, principles and policies for public access for the general population and Native Hawaiians.
“We are not against people practicing their cultural rights, but there is a process,” she said. “Mauna Kea is a conservation district.”
Nagata said this part of the CMP has drawn the most interest, as many residents were uncertain how the university planned to manage public access.
“The big fear is about hunting and mandatory orientation,” Nagata said.
There will be no restrictions on hunting practices, which are governed by other bodies, and at this time, the office does not see a need for mandatory orientation.
Instead, the OMKM rangers will continue to educate mountain visitors and monitor activity. This year, the state Legislature gave OMKM the authority to enforce rules within the reserve.
More specific rules and regulations will be drawn up after the BLNR approves the Public Access Plan.
The plan tenets include: health and safety, education, traditional and customary rights, adaptive management; and management methods and authority.
Under the plan, management decisions will be based on reliable data and adapted as lessons are learned. Also, management control methods will range from encouraging personal accountability and responsibility to controlling certain user groups by permit to calling in sworn law enforcement officers.
“We recognize several levels of enforcement are available to us,” Nagata said. “And we would look to use the lowest levels first.”
Last year, more than 100,000 people trekked up the mountain, including scientists and observatory support staff; visitors (both local and tourists); hunters, hikers, skiers and other recreational users; Hawaiian cultural practitioners; media crews; and regular commercial tour operators.
Decommissioning Plan for Mauna Kea Observatories
This plan establishes the process for removal of observatories and restoration of their sites.
“It really establishes a framework for the observatories and gives assurances of clear expectations,” Nagata said.
Under the plan, observatories would be required to specify how decommissioning would be funded.
The 525-acre astronomy precinct is the designated area for large-scale telescopes.
The first chance to test the decommissioning process will come in 2016, when the Cal Tech Observatory plans to shut down operations.
Currently, there are 13 observatoties situated on Hawaii’s tallest peack, although Nagata said the OMKM expects there to be 10 operating telescopes on Mauna Kea when the lease between DLNR and UH expires in 2033.
While some telescopes could be replaced by new developments, she said, “there likely will never be more than 10.”
— Find out more: