Advancing the Mission of OMKM:
A Look Back
by Stephanie Nagata, OMKM Executive Director
As 2016 comes to a close, I thought I would take this time to reflect on how the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM) has advanced its mission since our formation in 2000. The priority at OMKM has, and continues to be the protection of Maunakea's unique cultural, natural and scientific resources for generations to come. The successful management of the large, diverse and remote acreage on Maunakea under OMKM's care is the result of a deliberate process involving the Hawaii Island community.
At the time of our formation in 2000, one of OMKM's first priorities was to identify the resources and establish baseline data to be used to assess the status of the resources over time. Surveys, each involving multiple years of field work, were put into action. We now have baseline data for archaeological sites, wēkiu bug, other native arthropods, botanical resources, climate, and weathering/erosion processes.
Following the establishment of baseline surveys, OMKM initiated annual surveys to monitor the status of the resources. OMKM annually monitors archaeological sites, wēkiu bug, native and alien arthropod species, as well as invasive species.
In addition, OMKM has funded numerous studies of the wēkiu bug including: a study of the bug's life history; characterization and mapping of the bug's habitat; habitat restoration; as well as how weather and terrain influences the distribution of the wēkiu bug's food. We are developing climate models that evaluate likely impacts on both the island and summit ecosystems and are participating in weather monitoring networks to better assess climate change. We are also currently studying the effectiveness of our invasive species prevention methods. And this year, a multi-year study to determine the presence of seabirds and bats and an inventory of forest birds in the upper elevations of Maunakea will begin.
To help guide us in the management of the protection of the resources is the comprehensive management plan based on OMKM's natural resources and cultural resources management plans. Compendiums to these plans include a burial treatment and long term monitoring plans to assess the status of the archeological sites and guide management of burials on the mountain. OMKM also has some of the most stringent invasive species prevention practices in the state, but these are critical to protect the mountain's fragile and unique resources.
After 50 years of astronomy on Maunakea, there comes a time when a telescope needs to be dismantled. The process is not simply taking a wrecking ball to a facility, but the decommissioning of a telescope follows a methodical process described in a decommissioning plan that involves the community in the process, in particular the extent to which a site is to be restored. The first to go through this process is the Caltech Submillimeter telescope.
The decommissioning plan, like the CMP, natural and cultural resources plans are not collecting dust on a shelf, but are actively being used to guide OMKM in its management functions. The volunteers who serve on the Maunakea Management Board and Kahu Ku Mauna Council represent our resourceful and diverse island residents and work with the staff that manage the day-to-day activities on the mountain. This community guidance is at the heart of OMKM and the CMP.
Finally, the OMKM ranger program, created in 2001 a year after OMKM was established, has grown from two to nine full-time, and two part-time rangers. The rangers are on duty year round assisting and educating visitors about the significance of Maunakea, how to enjoy their visit and how to do it safely. They provide first responder first aid, search and rescue efforts, traffic management, invasive species control and litter pick-up. They are truly the University's ambassadors on Maunakea.
Collectively, OMKM has a combined 13 field seasons of baseline survey work. 33 field seasons of monitoring, plus years invested in resource studies, program development and implementation. OMKM could not have accomplished its successes without the dedicated research of UH and UHH graduate students, faculty and post docs. To date OMKM's funding has produced one PhD, seven Master degree students, and funded several faculty members and post docs! OMKM also nurtured numerous undergraduate student interns, two of which are now pursing graduate degrees with one more planning to follow suit. The result is Maunakea research and data that are invaluable for OMKM's management efforts.
Whew! And this isn't all that we've done, but when you look back, that's a lot we did for a government agency in just 16 years!
Wishing happy holidays to each of you and your families,