Hawaiian culture, the earth is expected to dominate astronomy at its peak

HONOLULU (AP) – A task force tasked by the state legislature to make recommendations for a new management plan for Hawaii’s highest peak and its affiliated telescopes released the first draft of its proposal on Friday.

Mauna Kea is the proposed site for what would be the world’s largest optical telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope. The giant telescope project has sparked a cultural movement among native Hawaiians who believe the mountain is sacred. The construction of the massive instrument was blocked by opponents.

The group, which was invited in a House resolution earlier this year to develop the report, suggested a new governance entity for the mountain, which is managed by the University of Hawaii.

The group recommended that the university not have a seat on the board of the new governing body. The university’s lease expires in 2033.

“The University of Hawaii was represented at the table during the working group discussions,” said group chairman Rep. Mark Nakashima, a Democrat whose Hilo district includes Mauna Kea. “One of the premises of the resolution was that the university failed in some of its duties and responsibilities to the native Hawaiian people, and so it was not included in the final management structure.

The group could not reach a consensus on the participation of a person from the field of astronomy and recommended that such participation be on an advisory basis.

The group did not discuss or make recommendations on the thirty-meter telescope project.

“The task force discussed early on that (…) some of these decisions were not under our control,” Nakashima said.

“Other entities have come and decided this, not the least of which is the Supreme Court of Hawaii,” he said. “And so we didn’t get into this discussion.”

The proposed management structure is expected to include many native Hawaiians, especially those on the Big Island where Mauna Kea is located, according to reports.

Native Hawaiian Pualani Kanahele, one of the group’s cultural advisers, is relieved to have Indigenous voices at the table.

“I’m just happy that right now we’re allowed to participate in what’s going on on the mountain,” she said. “We have included a lot of cultural aspects in the report.”

The group recommended the eventual decommissioning of the telescopes located at the top of the mountain and the restoration of these areas to their natural state. The group focused on the cultural and environmental restoration of the mountain.

He also said that the new management team should develop a framework that limits the development of new observatories on the summit.

The mountain is already home to more than a dozen of the most advanced telescopes in the world.

Opponents of the telescopes claim the Mauna Kea observatories are desecrating the peak and harming the environment.

Scientists and other telescope proponents say the summit offers some of the best conditions for astronomical observations in the world. Some of Mauna Kea’s research has contributed to scientific understanding of black holes and gravity, among other major breakthroughs.

The report will be open for public comment until early January. The group will conduct a final review and submit its recommendations to state lawmakers for consideration.

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