Categorized | Environment

Honoring Ed Stevens, commitment to Mauna Kea


The serious mission of the Mauna Kea Management Board is generally reflected in its agendas replete with action items regarding initiatives to malama (take care of) Mauna Kea.

The June 28 meeting was no exception, but it also came with a few surprises.

The Mauna Kea Management Board, University of Hawaii Hilo, present and former University of Hawaii Board of Regents, fellow Kahu Ku Mauna Council members and Institute for Astronomy were in attendance to celebrate and honor Ed Stevens for his 13 years of volunteer service to move the stewardship of Mauna Kea forward.

“Ed has deep seated convictions and he converted them to positive motion,” former University of Hawaii Regent Billy Bergin said.

Stevens is drawn to this mountain and his love for Mauna Kea goes way back. He has made the two-hour drive from his Kona home to the summit regions of Mauna Kea many more times than he can remember.

At first Stevens made the trek as a hunting and hiking enthusiast, becoming intimately familiar with the mountain’s trails, natural features as well as its profound cultural and historical significance.

Ed Stevens

Stevens eventually lost interest in hunting and traded his rifle for a walking staff. Nowadays, his solitary journeys to those special places hold great spiritual significance for him.

While the evidence of human construction atop the summit troubles him, he becomes incensed by what he views as abusive and disrespectful behavior such as off-road vehicles racing up the sacred pu‘u (hills).

Those who know him are not surprised by his opposition to new observatory construction, yet Stevens has been supportive of the Thirty Meter Telescope declaring they are doing it the right way. He still hopes that someday Mauna Kea might be clear of any man-made objects.

Stung by mounting community criticism in the late 1990s, the UH Board of Regents endeavored to create a new Master Plan for Mauna Kea. During this process, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye saw the need for greater participation from Hawaiian cultural perspectives.

Inouye helped activate cultural practitioners willing to become involved. Stevens was a member of Aha Hui Ku Mauna, this original group, along with Hannah Springer, Arthur Hoke, Pua Kanahele, Mauna Roy, Larry Kimura and Ululani Sherlock.

Stevens and other members of Aha Hui Ku Mauna dedicated themselves to the onerous task of crafting a Master Plan that would lead to a much more open, community-based process to determine Mauna Kea’s future.

At times, passions ran high and emotions were frayed by anger and frustration. Throughout years of meetings, Stevens remained steadfast and never lost sight of the end goal to malama Mauna Kea.

“I remember when the UH Regents came to Hilo to hear from the public on the 2000 Mauna Kea Master Plan. Ed testified on behalf of the Council and some people with opposing viewpoints targeted him with personal attacks. Ed was the pillar of strength. He stood up for what he thought was right. It was a moment of clarity for me,” stated former University of Hawaii Regent Allan Ikawa. “I voted for the Master Plan. Ed taught us how special Mauna Kea is and that protection was our duty.”

When the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan was adopted in 2000, one of the key initiatives was the establishment of a council representing Hawaiian cultural resources. This council would serve to advise the Office of Mauna Kea Management, Mauna Kea Management Board and the UH Hilo Chancellor on all cultural issues affecting the management of Mauna Kea.

Stevens and other members of the Aha Hui Ku Mauna were tapped for this role for their knowledge of the mountain and issues surrounding its use and for their demonstrated commitment to creating a better management process in which all voices would be heard.

The new council named itself Kahu Ku Mauna (Guardians of the Mountain) and Stevens has served since its inception without compensation. A natural leader, Stevens was looked upon to organize and lead Kahu Ku Mauna.

In addition to his commitment to Kahu Ku Mauna, Stevens also drove in from Kona every month for the last 11 years to attend monthly Mauna Kea Management Board meetings.

Over the years, Stevens has read voluminous studies, scientific plans and proposals and countless other documents pertaining to Mauna Kea. He has skillfully articulated Kahu Ku Mauna’s point of view on issues large and small.

Members of the Mauna Kea Management Board have long appreciated Ed Steven’s calm and pragmatic nature, and his ability to express an opposing point of view while remaining a gentleman at all times.

Stevens continues his personal relationship with Mauna Kea and has led numerous treks to the summit. He has conveyed his deep convictions to protect Mauna Kea and to preserve its cultural integrity to dignitaries, government officials, students, educators, astronomers and visitors alike.

Ed Steven’s commitment is not over. He will continue to serve Kahu Ku Mauna, but will relinquish his role as spokesperson to respected Polynesian navigator and educator Chad Babayan.

Office of Mauna Kea Management Interim Director Stephanie Nagata said it most succinctly in her tribute to Ed Stevens, “Mahalo for setting us on the right path.”

Future generations will remember what Ed Stevens has done for Mauna Kea.

— Find out more:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: