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Contact: Linda Friar, 305-242-7714
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne welcomed the unanimous decision made yesterday by the World Heritage Committee at a meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, to remove Everglades National Park from the World Heritage in Danger List in recognition of the progress the United States has made in addressing key issues that led to the listing of the park in 1993.
The United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee "commended the United States of America for its investment of scientific and financial resources to rehabilitate" Everglades National Park.
"I am gratified that the World Heritage Committee recognized the major commitment the United States has made to restoring one of our nation’s and the world’s greatest natural treasures," Kempthorne said. "The Committee has highlighted our work to restore the Everglades as a model for the rest of the world to follow."
To date the United States has authorized $8 billion for the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
Secretary Kempthorne also praised the impressive partnership among federal, state and local agencies, tribes and non-governmental organizations that has made the Everglades restoration initiative possible.
"Without this cooperation, this decision yesterday to remove the Everglades from the In-Danger list would not have become reality," the Secretary noted. "At the same time, we realize that much work remains for all of the partners to accomplish our long term restoration goals. Removal of the park from the list in no way diminishes our commitment to the work ahead."
Everglades National Park was placed on the In-Danger List with the support of the U.S. government, in response to several threats to the ecologic health of the park, including changes to the natural water flow into the park, increase in invasive species and significant damage to park resources caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The United States, along with IUCN-the World Conservation Union, developed a detailed series of measures to address key threats to the Everglades, which were adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its session last year.
"Although full implementation of some of these measures is still a few years off, we have committed significant resources toward the restoration of the Everglades, detailed plans are being implemented, and significant on-the-ground work has already been accomplished," said Todd Willens, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks and the co-head of the U.S. Delegation to the World Heritage Committee meeting in New Zealand. "Indeed, as the Committee’s report points out, we are well along the way of implementing the world’s largest environmental restoration initiative at the Everglades ecosystem," he said.
The World Heritage Committee is the governing body of the 183-nation World Heritage Convention, which seeks to identify, recognize and protect the world’s most significant natural and cultural heritage, such as the Everglades. The United States was the first nation to ratify the Convention in 1973, and Everglades National Park is one of only 20 properties listed as World Heritage sites in the United States.