|AROUND THE WORLD|
|FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT|
As a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, the United States of America participates in the international deliberations that lead to cultural, natural, and mixed properties being inscribed on the World Heritage List. These properties, known as World Heritage Sites, are the most outstanding examples of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
Currently, there are 851 World Heritage Sites in 140 countries. Cultural sites number 660 and natural areas 166. There are 25 mixed sites that are listed for both nature and culture. In the United States, there are 20 World Heritage Sites, 8 of which are cultural and 12 natural. There are more natural sites listed in the United States than from any other single country except Australia..
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks of the Department of the Interior, through the National Park Service, conducts the U.S. World Heritage Program, including selecting and submitting nominations to the World Heritage List. The Office of International Affairs of the National Park Service is the responsible staff-level program office.
The World Heritage List as a whole is managed by a World Heritage Committee made up of representatives from signatory countries, supported by a secretariat, known as the World Heritage Centre, which is based in the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.
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What is a World Heritage Tentative List?
A Tentative List is a national list of natural and cultural properties that appear to meet the eligibility criteria for nomination to the World Heritage List. It is an annotated list of candidate sites which a country intends to nominate within a given time period.
The World Heritage Committee has issued Operational Guidelines asking participating nations to provide Tentative Lists, which aid in evaluating properties for the World Heritage List on a comparative international basis and help the Committee to schedule its work over the long term. The Operational Guidelines recommend that a nation review its Tentative List at least once every decade.
The new U.S. Tentative List is a short list of 14 sites that have been proposed for consideration by their owners and that have been carefully examined for their potential to meet the legal requirements for nomination by the United States as well as the revised World Heritage criteria. It will be used as the basis for preparing and submitting World Heritage nominations by the United States during the next 10 years.
Inclusion in the U.S. Tentative List does not affect the legal status of a property in any way. Even if the property is subsequently inscribed in the World Heritage List, only U.S. Government laws and regulations apply to it.
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Why and by whom was the new U.S. Tentative List prepared?
The U.S. Tentative List is expected to serve as a guide for a decade (2009-2019) of U.S. nominations to the World Heritage List. The number of sites on the Tentative List reflects the World Heritage Committee’s December 2004 request that each nation make no more than two nominations per year (excluding potential emergency nominations not at present foreseen).
The National Park Service Office of International Affairs (NPS-OIA) and the George Wright Society (GWS) worked cooperatively to prepare a draft of a new U.S. Tentative List. (See “How was the new U.S. Tentative List developed?” below.) The Secretary of the Interior made the final selection of sites for the List, which was submitted to the World Heritage Centre on January 24, 2008 through the Department of State.
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What were the legal prerequisites and other requirements for a U.S. site to be considered for inclusion in the new Tentative List?
The legal prerequisites for World Heritage nomination are set out in U.S. law and in the World Heritage Program Regulations (36 CFR 73). In addition to satisfying one or more of the World Heritage Committee’s criteria (see below), U.S. law requires that all three of the following requirements be met:
* Each property that is proposed must previously have been determined to be nationally significant for its cultural values, natural values, or both (i.e., formally designated as a National Historic Landmark, a National Natural Landmark, or as a Federal reserve of national importance, such as a National Park, National Monument, or Wildlife Refuge).
* All of the property’s owners must concur in the proposal.
* It must appear likely that the owners and the Department of the Interior will be able to agree on and present full evidence of legal protection for the property at the time of final nomination.
How was the the new U.S. Tentative List developed?
The National Park Service, with public consultation, developed an application form that was published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2006 and had to be submitted no later than April 1, 2007.. Willing owners or their representatives from government agencies and private owners submitted 35 complete applications that were reviewed by the National Park Service Office of International Affairs to determine whether they met the legal prerequisites for World Heritage nomination and otherwise appeared to be likely candidates for successful nomination. Factors relating to the latter included whether or not they had stakeholder support or were types of sites that are unrepresented or less represented in the World Heritage List.
Only properties appearing to meet one or more of the World Heritage criteria and the three specific U.S. legal prerequisites noted above were considered further for inclusion on the revised U.S. Tentative List.
Owners of properties that appeared, based on professional staff evaluation of the initial applications, to be the most likely candidates for inclusion in the Tentative List were asked to supplement or amend their original applications in May 2007. Joint revision of applications initially submitted individually was recommended in two cases, where NPS suggested that properties be grouped together. Revised applications were received in June and July of 2007.
Owners whose properties were not selected for further consideration for inclusion in the Tentative List were notified of this recommendation and provided with a statement of the reasons their properties were not included, with an opportunity to respond. All responses were provided to reviewers of the draft Tentative List for consideration. The National Park Service Office of International Affairs called upon a large number of National Park Service subject matter experts and two nongovernmental World Heritage experts to advise in its reviews and recommendations.
On October 4, 2007, the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, which included input from the Federal Interagency Panel on World Heritage, reviewed the National Park Service recommendations and made further recommendations from among the applications submitted. Both sets of recommendations were published in the Federal Register on October 30, 2007 for public comment. The Secretary of the Interior then made the final selection for inclusion in the List.
What other outreach was conducted?
The National Park Service Office of International Affairs (NPS-OIA) and the George Wright Society (GWS) organized and participated in preliminary explanatory meetings convened by NPS to acquaint both the international and U.S. national affiliates of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the Federal Interagency Panel on World Heritage, the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, and other parties, including individual owners or groups of owners, with the project and to further refine the process for preparation and submission of Tentative List applications. In response to requests, NPS-OIA and GWS also provided general advice on the preparation of applications.
How will the United States make use of the new U.S. Tentative List?
The new Tentative List is intended to serve as a basis for World Heritage nominations for at least most of the next decade, although its use would be excluded during any years when the United States is serving as an elected Member of the World Heritage Committee. The United States has pledged that it does not intend to bring forward to the Committee any nominations during such service. Because the United States was elected to a 4-year term on the Committee in October 2005, the earliest nominations from the new Tentative List, consistent with that pledge, can be prepared in 2008. They will be submitted no later than February 1, 2009, and scheduled to come to the Committee for consideration in June 2010.
In 2008, a Federal Register notice will provide an opportunity for public comment on the proposed first nominations to be drawn from the new Tentative List for preparation and submission to the World Heritage Centre by February 2009.
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What are the criteria used by the World Heritage Committee to select World Heritage Sites?
To be included on the World Heritage List, a site must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria enumerated below:
The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations in their selection for inscription on the World Heritage List.
The criteria are explained further in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage issues. The criteria have been regularly revised by the World Heritage Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept.
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How does the new U.S. Tentative List differ from the former U.S. Indicative Inventory of 1982?
In addition to the World Heritage Committee’s request for a new Tentative List, there were substantive reasons to prepare a new list. The process for creating the new World Heritage Tentative List took advantage of developments during the last quarter-century, including revised criteria, evolving precedents, international comparative studies, and Tentative Lists prepared recently by other countries.
The U.S. Indicative Inventory (1982), which used the term then in use, was a much longer list of about 60 candidate sites that was drafted by a National Park Service working group in 1976-82, using the first version of the World Heritage criteria, which was then in force. The World Heritage criteria have been significantly revised since then.
The Indicative Inventory had outlived its useful life. It was considered by the World Heritage Committee and the World Heritage Centre (the Committee’s secretariat) to be antiquated. Its deficiencies included:
* Although a process for amending the Indicative Inventory is outlined in the U.S. World Heritage Program regulations, only two sites were ever added to it; it was thus among the very first “Tentative Lists” submitted by any country and probably the oldest that was essentially unchanged. Approaches to the study of culture and views of the study of nature have changed in the last quarter-century and the sites may have changed as well.
* The working group in 1976-82 did not have the resources or the expertise to conduct any thorough international comparative studies to examine the merits of the properties before naming them to the Indicative Inventory. This was not a deliberate oversight, for a quarter-century ago, very few international comparative studies had been done and only a handful of sites had been inscribed in the World Heritage List, providing almost no precedents for the application of the World Heritage criteria.
* During and after the preparation of the Inventory, the National Park Service did not consult property owners or other stakeholders, such as State and local governments, to the extent that would be deemed appropriate today. In any case, after a quarter-century, a full review of owner interest and stakeholder support was merited before including or retaining sites on a new Tentative List.
Were the sites on the Indicative Inventory of 1982 automatically retained in the new Tentative List?
No. Their owners had to apply for inclusion in the new Tentative List, as explained above.
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Was consideration given to renominating World Heritage Sites under additional criteria and to extending their boundaries?
Although there is no blanket prohibition on doing so, under the World Heritage Committee’s Operational Guidelines, such major changes to World Heritage Sites are considered as new nominations. They would be counted against the annual limit of 2 nominations per year that can be drawn from the new U.S. Tentative List.
In addition, the World Heritage Committee considers only a limited number of properties each year, and already has decided that it will give priority to nominations that fall into unrepresented or less represented categories of sites. This limits the favorable prospects for an extension or a renomination of a listed World Heritage Site under additional criteria. Since such proposals face the possibility of lengthy deferral, it did not seem likely, as a rule, that it would be prudent to include many of them in the new Tentative List. Subject to the cautions just discussed, applications for inclusion in the new Tentative List of a proposed extension or renomination that enjoyed strong owner and stakeholder support were not dismissed outright, but were considered on their merits. Only in the case of Poplar Forest and the Virginia State Capitol, proposed as an extension to the Monticello-University of Virginia nomination of Thomas Jefferson’s architecture, was it decided to include an extension to an existing World Heritage Site in the new Tentative List.
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What were the roles of the NPS Associate Directors for Nature and Culture in preparing the new Tentative List?
The Associate Directors and their staffs were asked to advise the Office of International Affairs and the George Wright Society’s contractor on how to respond to public inquiries about the Tentative List revision; on how to evaluate the units of the National Park System and other nationally important Federal lands, as well as National Historic and Natural Landmarks, for inclusion; and on how to ensure that ethnic and minority cultural sites and indigenous peoples’ interests in the national parks were appropriately considered. The Associate Directors and their staffs primarily rendered their advice through review of Applications for the new Tentative List.
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What was the Timetable for Preparation of the New U.S. Tentative List?
Submitted Application for OMB Approval
OMB Approved / Distributed Applications
Deadline for Receipt of Completed Applications
Notification to Submit revised application materials
Deadline for Responses by Applicants
Draft Research Report and Tentative List Completed
August 2007 - October 2007
Expert Review of Research Report and Tentative List
November 2007 - December 2007
Public Comment; Final Review and Clearance by Secretary of the Interior
U.S. Tentative List submitted to World Heritage Centre