New Report Identifies Key Threats Facing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Date:   July 23, 2008
Contact:   Lindsay Bartsh, Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association 415-989-9921 x22

New Report Identifies Key Threats Facing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Endangered species, historic structures and educational efforts are at risk

Hilo, Hawaii— The nation's leading voice for the national parks, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), today released an assessment that reveals Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s natural features and cultural sites are in fair to poor condition. The park has among the highest number of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the National Park System, largely due to non-native species, which the National Park Service is working aggressively to eradicate.

According to NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks report, released just prior to the start of the Hawaii Conservation Conference, Hawaii Volcanoes’ natural resources rank in "poor" condition, scoring an overall 60 out of 100 points, primarily because the park battles non-native plants and animals that threaten to overtake native species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Hawaii Volcanoes is home to 54 federally listed endangered, threatened and candidate endangered plants and animals. Because of a lack of funding, the park relies on volunteers and partnerships with adjacent landowners, state and other federal agencies to actively monitor and protect four species that it identifies as flagship species: the hawksbill turtle, Hawaiian petrel, Hawaiian goose, and Mauna Loa silversword plant. The successful hawksbill turtle recovery program educates the public about ways to avoid inadvertent trampling of turtle nests on beaches, and in 2005 the park beaches achieved the highest hatchling rates since 1995.

“Our report recommends that more money be allocated to the park so it can continue to expand and enhance programs such as the hawksbill turtle recovery program and the newly created Three Mountain Alliance, a partnership of public and private landowners working together to protect more than one million acres of habitat,” said NPCA Senior Program Coordinator Kari Kiser. “These two highly innovative programs protect threatened plants and animals and increase public awareness so that each of us can help native species survive.”

In fact, according to a system-wide review of the condition of America’s national parks, invasive species are a widespread concern across many of our parks. NPCA’s “The State of Our National Parks: A Resources Index” released in June, found that invasive species are a limited concern in 90 percent of the parks evaluated, and are considered a widespread or chronic concern in 38 percent. Additionally, 82 percent of assessed parks have experienced the extirpation of one or more species, while 40 percent of sampled parks have lost a key species or top predator.

The new assessment also finds that Hawaii Volcanoes’ cultural resources are in "fair" condition, scoring an overall 65 out of 100. Most historic structures and other park infrastructure need upgrades to meet building codes for structures in earthquake zones. And because of budget shortfalls and limited staff availability, only 3 to 5 percent of the park has undergone archaeological surveying, despite the risk of many of these sites being destroyed by lava flow and ash. The report gives high marks to the park’s strong ethnography program and its solid relationship with kupuna (Hawaiian elders) groups, enabling it to incorporate Native Hawaiian voices and perspectives into park programs and projects.

The park’s business plan cites a shortfall of 63 full-time equivalent employees, causing resource management, visitor services and educational programs to suffer. For example, the number of educational programs provided by the park has decreased by 45 percent in the last decade, and it is only with the help of volunteers that current levels are maintained. In 2006, 5,269 students and teachers participated in educational programs in the park, while more than 1, 200 students were denied this opportunity because the park lacked the staff needed to accommodate them.

“As the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service approaches in 2016, we have an opportunity to make a difference for our national parks.  Congress and the Administration must provide sustained financial support to help parks like Hawaii Volcanoes restore and protect our heritage for our children and grandchildren,” Kiser continued.

NPCA launched the landmark Center for State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country.



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