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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking public input on whether it should move forward with a formal environmental review for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island.

The process begins with a series of public meetings on Hawaiʻi Island August 9–12. An open comment period runs through September 17 and comments can be submitted in-person at the public meetings or online.

The University of Hawaiʻi has no formal role in the NSF process with the establishment of the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority authorized by the recent adoption of Act 255 (HB2024), however, UH community members are strongly encouraged to participate in the NSF process including its public hearings.

“Whether you support TMT or not, the NSF needs to hear from you,” said UH Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship Executive Director Greg Chun. “Robust, public participation is key to finding the best path forward for Maunakea and astronomy in Hawaiʻi.”

NSF has developed a Draft Community Engagement Plan to provide multiple opportunities for the public to participate in the environmental review process, which will include a 2–3 day interactive and NSF-facilitated workshop designed to develop a plan to define and practice responsible astronomy in Hawaiʻi. The public is invited to comment on draft study plans that outline the scope and methodology to be used in any studies that may be conducted as part of the environmental review.

On July 19, 2022, the NSF posted in the Federal Register, its Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Initiate Section 106 Consultation for a Potential National Science Foundation Investment in the Construction and Operation of an Extremely Large Telescope Located in the Northern Hemisphere and Notice of Public Scoping Meetings and Comment Period. This notice officially starts (1) the public scoping process for NSF’s environmental impact statement required by the National Environmental Policy Act related to the proposed project’s impacts to resources, and (2) public consultation required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act related to the proposed project’s impacts specifically on properties that are on or qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. For more details, please review NSF’s Notice of Intent.

According to NSF, informal outreach efforts by NSF on Hawaiʻi Island began in August 2020 and formally concluded in November 2021. Meetings were held with approximately 150 people regarding perspectives on TMT and astronomy on Maunakea. NSF also received 140 written comments during this timeframe.

Visit the NSF website for more information on scheduled public meetings or to submit comments.

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