Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Nominations Are Now Open for U.S. World Heritage Sites

There are only twenty (20) World Heritage sites in the United States (including two sites jointly administered with Canada). Considering that there are more than 800 sites worldwide this number does not adequately represent the U.S. contribution to world cultural heritage, nor the world natural heritage located within the borders of the United States.

All member nations of the World Heritage Convention voluntarily nominate their own sites embracing superlative natural or cultural attributes. Among other requirements, the sites must be authentic and meet at least one of several highly stringent criteria for universal value.

Each signatory to the Convention maintains sovereignty over its sites, is responsible for their protection, and pledges to assist others in preservation efforts. Direct authority over individual properties remains with the national, state, tribal, or local government or private organization in charge.

The United States was elected to the World Heritage Committee, the governing body of the World Heritage Convention, in October 2005 and will serve until October 2009. Service on the Committee involves voting on such issues as international assistance to World Heritage Sites and the selection of new World Heritage Sites. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, no U.S. nominations will be made to the List during the U.S. tenure on the Committee.

However, each signatory nation is required under the World World Heritage Convention to post a list of potential world heritage sites. The last list, developed in 1982, is outdated and all countries hare requested to update their lists on a ten-year horizon with a balance of cultural and natural properties. The U.S. Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the Federal Interagency Panel for World Heritage has now identified many more sites (cultural and natural) as likely to meet the criteria for future nomination to the World Heritage List. This tentative list is available for viewing.

A process is now underway for updating the tentative list of U.S. sites for inscription in the World Heritage List. The process is described on a webpage provided by the International Office of the National Park Service. A report is available on the Experts Briefing and Seminar held as part of this process on September 12, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The USA and Caribbean Regional Office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has provided a website with resources for the development of that list; Involved in this process are:
* The George Wright Society

* U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites

The Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, is responsible for identifying and nominating U.S. sites to the list. The Service's Office of International Affairs provides staff support for U.S. participation in the World Heritage Convention.

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