Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Seeks Comments on Draft Plan and EIS

The National Park Service is pleased to announce the availability of the draft plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement  (DEIS) aimed at protecting and restoring native ecosystems by managing non-native ungulates (hoofed mammals) within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

The purpose of the draft plan/DEIS is to develop a comprehensive and systematic framework for managing non-native ungulates that supports long-term ecosystem protection, promotes recovery and restoration of native vegetation and other natural resources, and protects and preserves cultural resources.

Endangered plants such as this Ka‘ū silversword, thrive in ungulate-free areas (NPS photo)

A copy of the draft plan/DEIS is available for review and download online at http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/havo_ecosystem_deis.  Hard copies of the draft plan/DEIS are also available for review at the park’s Kīlauea Visitor Center, and state public libraries on the Island of Hawai‘i.  A limited number of CDs and hard copies may be obtained by calling the park Superintendent’s office at (808) 985-6026. The project website for Protecting & Restoring Native Ecosystems by Managing Non-Native Ungulates Plan/EIS is at http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/havo.

Hawai‘i supports a rich diversity of native plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.  Many of these unique species are rare and in danger of becoming extinct.  Ungulates are an issue of concern because Hawaiian ecosystems evolved without large mammalian herbivores and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of non-native ungulates.

Non-native goats, pigs, sheep, mouflon sheep, axis deer and cattle destroy habitat, degrade watershed, inhibit native forest regeneration, cause loss of sensitive native species (including state and federally listed threatened and endangered species), and have potential to damage archeological sites and cultural landscapes.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes provides habitat for more than 50 native species that are federally listed as threatened, endangered, or are candidates for either list. Among these are the Ka‘ū silversword, Hawai‘i creeper, and nēnē.

The park has actively managed non-native ungulates since the 1920s, allowing for the recovery of native species in many areas of the park.  The park’s current EIS addressing ungulate control is more than 30 years old. The new plan/EIS will provide a park-wide framework to guide non-native ungulate management activities over the next decades that considers the recently acquired Kahuku unit, new invasive species challenges, and current NPS policy and guidance.  Using the initial comments received by the public and incorporating input from a team of scientists, the National Park Service has developed a range of management alternatives.  The no action and four action alternatives were analyzed for impacts on natural and cultural resources and the broader human environment, and the analysis is included in the draft plan/EIS now available for public comment.

The public is encouraged to comment by attending upcoming public open house meetings, or by submitting written comments electronically on the project website, or by mail.

Three public open house meetings are scheduled on the Island of Hawai‘i: Mon., Dec. 5 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the park’s Kīlauea Visitor Center, Tues., Dec. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Nā‘ālehu Community Center, and Wed., Dec. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kona Outdoor Circle Educational Center. The meetings will include various small stations where NPS staff will be available to answer questions and record comments. Directions to these locations are posted on the project website.

Written comments can be submitted at http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/havo_ecosystem_deis or by mailing correspondence to: Cindy Orlando, Superintendent, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, PO Box 52, Hawaii National Park, HI 96718.

All written responses must be postmarked or transmitted no later than midnight MST (8 p.m. HST), Jan. 20, 2012.

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