Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published July 2008


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The Hawaiian island chain, the most geographically remote in the world, is located in the Pacific Ocean, 2,390 miles west of California. It comprises eight main islands and more than 100 minor islands, islets, and atolls.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is situated on the island of Hawai'i. Established in 1916, the park was initially created for the study and protection of the impressive volcanic features of Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Loa is the largest freestanding mountain in the world and last erupted in 1984. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and has been erupting since 1983. Hundreds of lava tubes, steam vents, sea arches, cracks, and caves are found in the park, as well as active craters and calderas, most of which are accessible by trails that offer stunning views.

Each year, more than 1.6 million people visit the 333,000-acre park to experience the volcanoes and the park’s other natural and cultural features. Designated as both an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park preserves the intimate connection between the natural history of the region and Native Hawaiian culture and life.

According to an assessment by NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks, current overall conditions of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park’s known natural resources rated a "poor" score of 60 out of 100. The park battles invasive non-native animals and plants that threaten to overtake native species, many of which are found only in Hawai'i and nowhere else in the world. Increased financial support is critical to ensure efforts to protect native species—including a long list of federally listed threatened and endangered ones—are maintained.

Cultural resources received a "fair" score of 65 out of 100. The park has strong relationships with Native Hawaiian groups, which contribute to all aspects of park resource management and interpretation. However, funds are needed to pursue cultural resources surveys and studies.

The park’s 2004 business plan cited a shortfall of about 63 full-time equivalent employees. This lack of staff affects the park’s capacity to manage resources, provide law enforcement, maintain trails, and provide interpretive services to visitors.

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