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New stewardship authority ushers in community-based management model for Maunakea

W. M. Keck Observatory

Gov. David Ige has signed House Bill 2024, which transitions the management of Maunakea from the University of Hawaiʻi to a new authority.

Maunakea is revered by Hawaiians as a shrine for worship, a home to the gods, and as the piko or center of Hawaiʻi Island.

Since the 1960s, it has become the site of some of the world’s most advanced telescopes. But the university has come under fire in recent years for mismanagement of the mountain.

The new law establishes a community-based stewardship that puts Maunakea at the center of importance while also allowing astronomy to thrive.

John O’Meara, chief scientist at the W. M. Keck Observatory, says it’s not enough to simply work on scientific priorities.

“We also recognize the critical importance of how and where we do astronomy, not just why we do astronomy scientifically, but the relationship that astronomy has with where it's done and who's doing it," O'Meara said.

"So many astronomical sites are also sites of critical cultural and environmental importance, oftentimes to Indigenous peoples. We have to reset the dialogue to make sure that astronomy is part of a community-based model for how we do astronomy. But it's not the only voice at the table," he told HPR.

Remnants of UH management on the mauna will remain with the UH Center for Maunakea Stewardship continuing to oversee daily operations through the three-year transition to a new authority.

UH says it “remains committed to responsible stewardship of Mauna Kea.”

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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