The Honolulu Star-Advertiser didn’t exist three years ago. Maybe that’s why it failed to realize it was publishing three-year-old news in a story about a “poor” rating at Volcanoes National Park on Monday.

The article refers to a “sobering new study” by the National Parks Conservation Association in which the Big Island park earned poor marks in a natural resources assessment.

But a closer look at the report, which was released in June 2011, shows that it is actually an overview of previously-reported findings. The rating of Volcanoes National Park, for example, came from an assessment first published in 2008. In fact, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported about the assessment in June of that year.

The National Parks Conservation Association’s communications director, Shannon Andrea, confirmed to Civil Beat that there is no new information or assessment for Volcanoes National Park.

“Over the last 10 years, we assessed 80 (national parks),” Andrea said. “We just released a report in June which is basically an overview of the 80 assessments all together, but the portion about Hawaii refers back to the 2008 assessment of Volcanoes National Park.”

Here’s a link to the part of the overview Andrea referenced, which clearly lists Hawaii’s data as having been reported in 2008.

By reporting a dated rating as new, the newspaper failed to take into consideration a series of initiatives that Volcanoes National Park has taken since 2008. For example, according to the National Park Service website, the park has reached a series of milestones since it began work on a new general management plan in 2009.

“Since that time, four different preliminary alternatives for future park management including zones have been developed by the planning team,” the website reads. “The alternatives address a menu of topics that include locations of various visitor services, trail ideas, access at the Kahuku Unit, resource conservation and boundary recommendations.”

Just last week, there were three “talk story” sessions scheduled at the park, and members of the public were encouraged to submit comments about plans for its future. Comments received by Sept. 30 will be considered in the preparation of a environmental impact statement that’s in the works for major changes at the park. (Follow this link for more information on how to submit comments.)

There’s plenty more recent news related to Volcanoes National Park, too.

On a national level, parks advocates are fighting to protect funding in a climate of deep budget cuts. As of last week, the National Parks Conservation Association met its goal of securing more than 100,000 signatures on a petition urging Congress to stop cutting funds for national parks.

The Star-Advertiser accurately pointed out that funding cuts are a current threat to parks like Volcanoes National. But it failed to explore what the National Parks Service aims to do in spite of them. The agency last Thursday released a report in advance of the agency’s 2016 centennial called, “A Call To Action: Preparing For A Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement.”

The report outlines the history of the National Parks Service, its goals and what steps it needs to take to better meet them. The study outlines a long list of ambitious goals, many of which could directly affect Hawaii, including:

• Making strategic land acquisitions within national parks. According to the National Parks Service website, the agency is considering recommending portions of land within Volcanoes National Park for the National Wilderness Preservation System.

• Sponsoring scholarships to support the next generation of conservation scientists in a program that would enable two dozen doctorate candidates from biological, physical, social and cultural disciplines to conduct research in national parks each year.

• Working with a class of 2016 graduates at every national park to develop a series of activities for the National Parks Service’s centennial.

• Expanding access to water-based recreation by creating a national system of water trails.

• Establishing formal partnerships with health and medical providers to promote the community’s use of parks as a healing tool.

The agency’s goals are clearly ambitious, and make a point that the Star-Advertiser apparently missed this time: A lot can happen in just a few years.

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