Hawaii marine reserve may get world heritage status

Designation of new sites due end of July; Mount Vernon is also on the list

The Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of La Réunion, France, in the Indian Ocean, is another area actively seeking World Heritage status for the conservation and tourism benefits of the designation. Click on the photo for more information. Image courtesy Reunionweb.com.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal comes ashore at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i. Photo courtesy the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — By the end of this month, planet Earth will have a few more of its most cherished spots designated as World Heritage sites, recognized internationally for their outstanding natural and cultural values. And this year, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i is one of the candidates for listing. Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, is the other U.S. candidate this year.

Papahānaumokuākea is the country’s largest marine reserve and has a good chance of making the list, as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) focuses on marine ecosystems. See a YouTube video on the reserve at the end of this story.

“This year … we will launch new studies promoting greater representation of deserts and marine areas on the World Heritage List,” said Tim Badman, IUCN’s Head of World Heritage.

The reserve encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean — an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.

The extensive coral reefs found in Papahānaumokuākea have been dubbed as rainforests of the sea for their biological diversity. More than 7,000 marine species live in the reserve’s reef ecosystem. One-quarter of them are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Many of the islands and shallow-water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Papahānaumokuākea is also of great cultural importance to Native Hawaiians with significant cultural sites found on the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana.

Click here to learn more about Papahānaumokuākea, including how to pronounce it. And click here to get more information about all U.S. Marine sanctuaries.

World Heritage preserved

Mesa Verde National Park is Colorado’s only World Heritage site. Others in the U.S. include Yellowstone National Park, the Everglades, the Grand Canyon, Pueblo de Taos and the Statue of Liberty. Click here to see an interactive map featuring all world heritage properties around the world.

The final decisions on this year’s listings will be made in Brasilia, when representatives from the 186 countries that are signatories to the World Heritage Convention gather for their annual meeting, July 25 – Aug. 3

Other candidates for World Heritage listing include the Putorana Plateau, in the Russian Federation, the Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of La Réunion, France and an extension into Italy of Monte San Giorgio, Switzerland. Conservation reports on almost 60 natural World Heritage sites will be considered. See the full candidate list here.

About 8 percent of the world’s protected areas, including national parks, nature reserves and community conserved areas, are World Heritage Sites.

“The World Heritage Convention is one of the most widely known global conservation agreements. World Heritage listing generates pride in an area, and can lead to better conservation and protection, as well as benefiting local communities,” said Badman.

“But just because a site is listed does not automatically ensure its conservation,” he said. “In many cases, World Heritage sites are under severe threat, and have insufficient support, including staff and financial resources. We aim to provide the best advice to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to help ensure all sites are well managed so that their unique values will be passed on to future generations, and benefit the present one,” he said.  “We think the Convention could provide more support to threatened World Heritage sites, and develop the capacity of site managers and governments to tackle their most pressing challenges,” he said.

Facts and figures on World Heritage sites.

Check out this amazing photo essay on World Heritage sites in Albania.

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  1. [...] and techno-belly dance tracks Travel: A serendipitous sandwich and ‘Novella” in Brindisi Hawaii marine reserve may get world heritage status Father-son Jamaica trip filled with teachable moments A Balkan sampler: Blueberries and mopeds [...]

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