The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has a strong commitment to environmental conservation. As one of the largest private funders for conservation, we are dedicated to protecting some of the most important land and marine ecosystems worldwide.
The question of a potential conflict between conservation on Mauna Kea and the construction of TMT raised by the opponents of the project stems from an assumption that conservation equates to “no use.” When it comes to conservation management schemes, there is a gamut of approaches depending on the specific conservation objective assigned to a given area.
In some cases, ecosystems are so fragile that areas should be protected from any and all use. Other areas can sustain responsible use. It all depends on the conservation objective.
In the case of Mauna Kea, the 2009 University of Hawaii Comprehensive Management Plan established conservation management objectives and outlined responsible use and protection strategies.
The Mauna Kea Science Reserve, where the Thirty Meter Telescope would be built, is one of the three areas on the mountain within the state conservation lands managed by the University of Hawaii. The Science Reserve (11.3 thousand acres of state land above 11.5 thousand feet) operates under a 65-year lease to be used specifically for scientific research.
The Science Reserve includes 525 acres designated as an Astronomy Precinct (where the TMT will be located, along with 13 existing telescopes). The remainder of the Reserve is designated as a Natural and Cultural Preservation Area. The Science Reserve is managed according to the 2009 UH Comprehensive Management Plan, which includes management prescriptions for the uses permitted by the lease: research, natural resources conservation, historical and cultural resources protection, infrastructure, recreation and commercial uses. The plan reflects international best practices in multiple-use protected area management. It is a rigorous exercise in accommodating the multiple uses permitted by the lease, guided by clear objectives. The plan is also the result of a thorough and precedent-setting consultation process with all relevant stakeholders, including Native Hawaiians.
The conservation impact of the TMT is addressed directly with the Environmental Impact Statement. The EIS is technically sound and responsive to the assessment criteria established in the CMP.
Our assessment is that the main environmental concerns, including hydrology and vulnerable species, and the need to decommission obsolete telescopes, are adequately identified within the CMP and EIS.