Mauna Kea's Master Plan Pits Conservation Against Development - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mauna Kea's Master Plan Pits Conservation Against Development

By Paul Drewes

BIG ISLAND (KHNL) - Hawaii Island's Mauna Kea is known as the world's best spot for outer space observation, but some groups are concerned astronomers views are clouded when it comes to conservation of this important mountain.

As astronomers look to the stars from Mauna Kea, they also look to their future. Rolf-Peter Kudritz of the Institute for Astronomy says, "We talk about the next generation telescope which will be the largest in the world. A larger telescope means you will be able to see fainter objects and you can see better details."

But native Hawaiians and other groups are keeping their eyes on the ground below these multi-million dollar telescopes, on land that has been fought over for years- leading some to say "No more development." "What's occurred has already caused destruction but the big issue is further development and what people are saying is enough is enough."

The University of Hawaii has a master plan to manage the mountain, but it is not a state approved management plan, which would take into consideration water, animal and plant preservation, and the protection of sacred Hawaiian sites- issues that could prove costly for this billion dollar business, because this land is leased for much less. Kudritz says, "Astronomy needs to pay for proper funding for conservation of the mountain and they can't do it on a dollar a year."

Observatories compensate UH by granting Hawaii astronomers free time on their telescopes. But the decades of growth on the mountain came to an end when a Hawaii Island judge recently stopped expansion plans of the Keck telescope. "The actual resource that needs to be protected is the whole summit and they can't do piece meal develop there."

But even groups opposed to future development now, say the future of Mauna Kea could change, if conservation catches up to the construction growth of the past 30 years.

We talk about the next generation telescope which will be the largest in the world. A larger telescope means you will be able to see fainter objects and you can see better details."

But native Hawaiians and other groups are keeping their eyes on the ground below these multi-million dollar telescopes, on land that has been fought over for years- leading some to say "No more development." "What's occurred has already caused destruction but the big issue is further development and what people are saying is enough is enough."

The University of Hawaii has a master plan to manage the mountain, but it is not a state approved management plan, which would take into consideration water, animal and plant preservation, and the protection of sacred Hawaiian sites- issues that could prove costly for this billion dollar business, because this land is leased for much less. Kudritz says, "Astronomy needs to pay for proper funding for conservation of the mountain and they can't do it on a dollar a year."

Observatories compensate UH by granting Hawaii astronomers free time on their telescopes. But the decades of growth on the mountain came to an end when a Hawaii Island judge recently stopped expansion plans of the Keck telescope. "The actual resource that needs to be protected is the whole summit and they can't do piece meal develop there."

But even groups opposed to future development now, say the future of Mauna Kea could change, if conservation catches up to the construction growth of the past 30 years.

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