Monitoring of ‘ua‘u addressed at public event for telescop

August 27, 2010

PUKALANI – A public hearing on a draft plan to monitor the endangered ‘ua’u, or Hawaiian petrel, during the construction of a 143-foot-tall telescope on Haleakala drew about 20 people Monday night.

But only one person spoke up at the hearing at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani.

Charles Villalon, a former officer with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, focused his comments on who the National Science Foundation would hire to oversee monitoring activities for the petrels during the telescope construction and not how the habitat conservation plan would be carried out.

Villalon, who works as a zoning inspector with the county Department of Planning, suggested that the foundation train island residents for the work and not bring in employees from the Mainland.

“Give our people a chance,” Villalon said. “It has to be local people.”

The foundation is seeking an “incidental take license” from the Board of Land and Natural Resources, recognizing the possibility that petrels might be harmed during construction of the planned Advanced Technology Solar Telescope atop Haleakala. The telescope is designed to study the sun and its potential impacts on Earth and human technology. Construction for the estimated $300 million project could begin this fall and continue for seven years.

The draft habitat conservation plan and incidental take license are available for public review at the Wailuku Public Library or online at www.dofaw.net in the announcements section.

Written testimony will be accepted through Sept. 8. Comments may be addressed to: Habitat Conservation Planning Associate, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 325, Honolulu 96813.

The plan addresses the “take” of the Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis). It outlines measures to minimize, avoid, mitigate and monitor impacts on the bird as well as measures to recover a bird if it were injured or placed in harm’s way during the telescope’s construction.

The proposed license calls for a 10-year term and allows for the foundation to take no more than 35 petrels – 30 fledglings and five adults – on state land near the summit and telescope site.

Foundation officials will be responsible for monitoring the construction and its impact on the ‘ua’u, documenting the birds’ survival and reproductive successes and the establishment of new burrows. Searches for the petrels and burrows in and around the construction site would be done once a week, according to the plan, and would be subject to change as needed.

The search and recovery of the Hawaiian petrels would take place within a 180-foot perimeter of the telescope site, the area in which birds could fall or bump into buildings or equipment during construction.

Once public review of the plan is completed, the document would return to an Endangered Species Recovery Committee, which is made up of an advisory body of biologists. The panel would then send comments to the BLNR for approval and action by the department.