I write to offer a different point of view than a recent opinion piece in The Williams Record regarding astronomy on Mauna Kea.
Within the native Hawaiian community, there is not unanimity of thought on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). For example, Kālepa Baybayan, the respected traditional voyaging navigator and member of the Kahu Kū Mauna cultural council, has been a vocal supporter of the project. He is not the only one.
It’s also important to know that Native Hawaiian voices helped shape the TMT project during the lengthy permitting process. The permit conditions address many of the concerns noted. It is a better project because of this.
Williams alumna and Chair of the State of Hawaiʻi’s Board of Land and Natural Resources, Suzanne Case, has played a critical role in the process. In this process, as in all others she’s been involved in as Chair, she has embraced Native Hawaiian perspectives as she continues the critical tasks of preserving and protecting Hawaiʻi’s culture and natural environment.
She successfully advocated to add the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a co-trustee of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Under her leadership, the department engaged collaboratively with state Aha Moku Advisory Committee representatives and cultural practitioners in stewardship of state parks and lands and waters statewide, and established a streamlined permitting process for restoration of loko i‘a, Hawaiian fishponds.
She supported transitioning of funding for the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission from spent-down federal trust funds to continue restoration and education, such as to co-host 125 native Hawaiian interns focusing on conservation and natural and cultural resource management training.
Chair Case has been a leader in effectively managing 30 percent of Hawaiʻi’s nearshore ocean waters by 2030. This includes establishing the Hā‘ena, Kauaʻi, Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area and the Kaʻūpūlehu, Kona, Hawaiʻi, “Try Wait” 10-year community-based fishing rest area.
In addition, she has taken unprecedented action to protect and more efficiently manage Hawaiʻi’s fresh water supply. Her leadership has resulted in the restoration of hundreds of millions of gallons of water to streams and rivers. This benefits traditional kalo (taro) cultivation and provides the opportunity for renewable energy and water for Hawaiian homesteading and farming.
Difficult issues require much of our leaders. I can assure the students, faculty and broader community of Williams College that Chair Case will continue to listen to Native Hawaiian perspectives and move forward in ways that are respectful, constructive and serve all the people of Hawaiʻi.
David Y. Ige serves as governor of Hawaiʻi.