Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to be Proposed for World Heritage Status

HONOLULU -- The National Park Service announced today that the Department of the Interior has requested that a World Heritage nomination package be developed for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the nation’s largest marine protected area. The National Park Service is the lead agency to coordinate World Heritage nominations for the United States.

The Monument, which includes the islands and waters of the northwestern Hawaiian archipelago, along with Mount Vernon, Virginia, will be proposed as the United States’ first nominations for consideration for the World Heritage List since 1994.

Led by the State of Hawai‘i, the three agencies managing Papahānaumokuākea – the Department of Land and Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – are preparing a draft nomination package.

The final nomination will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre when completed. The final nominations would not be considered by the World Heritage Committee until at least 16 months after they are submitted.

The Interior Department requested public comments on potential nominations to the World Heritage List on March 19. It also consulted with the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites on the recommendation that the Monument be considered as one of the first two sites to be brought forward by the United States. The Council is an international nongovernmental organization of professionals dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites.

Information about the World Heritage nomination process, and questions and answers have been posted by the National Park Service on its website at http://www.nps.gov/oia/topics/worldheritage/worldheritage.htm and at www.papahanaumokuakea.gov

“The nomination of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a World Heritage site would be a great honor that also carries great responsibility,” said Hawai‘i Governor Linda Lingle. “It would be a privilege to bear the responsibility of managing, protecting and cherishing this precious archipelago not only for ourselves, but for the global community, not just for today but for future generations as well.

“The Monument managers are seeking public input on the Draft Management Plan for the largest fully protected marine conservation area in the world. We encourage everyone interested in this great undertaking to participate,” the Governor added.

The outstanding cultural and natural features of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and its cultural significance to native Hawaiians, make it uniquely worthy of consideration for global recognition. The Monument contains one of the world’s most significant marine and terrestrial ecosystems. It represents a major phase of the earth’s evolutionary history, an outstanding example of significant on-going geological processes, and significant habitats where rare and endangered plant and animal species still survive. It is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth. It also includes nearly pristine coral reefs, the largest nesting albatross colony in the world, and is the primary habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green sea turtles. World Heritage Sites are designated under the World Heritage Convention. The United States was the prime architect of the Convention, an international treaty for the preservation of natural and cultural heritage sites of global significance proposed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972, and was the first nation to ratify it. Currently, 851 sites have been designated in 140 of the 184 signatory countries, including 20 World Heritage sites within the United States. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is the only World Heritage site within Hawai‘i and was designated in 1987.