Secretary Kempthorne Announces World Heritage Nominations For Mount Vernon in Virginia and Papahanaumokuakea in Hawaii

Last edited 09/29/2021

MOUNT VERNON, VA—In an event at the historic home of America's first President, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced that the United States is nominating President George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Joining the Secretary for the formal announcement was James C. Rees, Executive Director of the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.

“For the first time in 15 years, the United States is submitting nominations to the World Heritage List, the official list of the world's most significant natural and cultural sites,” Secretary Kempthorne announced. “The two sites we are nominating include Mount Vernon itself—America's ‘first home'--and the spectacular Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument protected by President Bush in 2006.”

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will consider the nominated sites for inscription on the World Heritage List in the summer of 2010. Kempthorne noted that if both sites are successfully inscribed on the World Heritage List, they will join the 20 existing World Heritage Sites in the United States and 878 sites worldwide.

“The nomination of Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument recognizes its exceptional geological and ecological processes, its provision of critical habitat for some of the world's most endangered species, and its sacred place in the history and culture of Native Hawaiian people,” said Governor Linda Lingle.

Mount Vernon and Papahanaumokuakea “will be in good company on the list with areas such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, the Galapagos islands of Ecuador, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, India's Taj Mahal and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt,” Kempthorne noted. “What these sites have in common is that they are significant as sites that are not only national icons in their respective countries, but global treasures symbolic to all humankind.”

The UNESCO World Heritage sites are designated under the World Heritage Convention, of which the United States was the prime architect. Interior's National Park Service is the principal technical agency for U.S. Government's participation in the Convention.

The nomination documents were prepared by the property owners --the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and the Co-Trustees of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument . The Interior Department and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the State of Hawaii co-manage the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

The nominations will be submitted through the U.S. Department of State to the offices of the World Heritage Centre in Paris, France. After reviews by World Heritage Centre staff, the International Council for Monuments and Sites and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, they will be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee. The committee is a rotating body of 21 nations elected from among the signatories of the World Heritage Convention. The United States is currently serving its fourth term, which will end in 2009.

Inscription as a World Heritage Site does not impose any legal restrictions on property owners or neighbors of sites, nor does it give the United Nations any management authority or ownership rights in U.S. World Heritage Sites, which continue to be subject only to existing federal and local laws. The agreement of the property owner is required by U.S. law in order for a site in this country to be nominated to the World Heritage List.

Mount Vernon is nominated under the World Heritage cultural criterion. George Washington's long-time home, with its associated gardens and grounds, together form a remarkably well-preserved and extensively documented example of a plantation landscape of the 18th-century American South, based on English models but modified and adapted to the American context. The estate was at the heart of a large plantation operation that included hundreds of slaves. There is a core of 16 surviving 18th-century structures situated within a landscape of associated gardens, fences, lanes, walkways, and other features, situated along the Potomac River, that changed and developed over many years in Washington's family. Washington and his wife are also buried here. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has owned and maintained Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens for 150 years.

Paphanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is the first U.S. nomination of a site for both its natural and cultural values, including its associated cultural landscape. It consists of a 1,200-mile-long string of islands, atolls, coral reefs, and adjacent waters that runs northwest from the main Hawaiian Islands.

At nearly 90 million acres, this spectacular area is larger than the entire U.S. National Park System, and is one of the world's biggest marine protected areas, still largely pristine. It is a refuge for vast populations of seabirds, fish, and corals including the world's largest seabird rookery and critical habitat for several endangered and globally significant species.

It also provides an opportunity for native Hawaiians to reconnect with their ancestral environment, and serves as a setting for the revitalized art of Polynesian open water navigation.

The United States revised and resubmitted its World Heritage Tentative List in January of 2008; under the World Heritage Committee's Operational Guidelines, properties must be included on a country's Tentative List before they can be nominated.

There are 12 additional properties or groups of properties on the Tentative List: The U.S. Tentative List can be found at: Decisions on the timing and sequence for future nominations will be made on an annual basis, and will include an opportunity for public comment. More information on the World Heritage Program can be found at and

The current World Heritage Sites in the United States, with the year of their inscription, are:


Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks and Preserves, with Kluane and Tatshenshini-Alsek National Parks and Reserve in Canada (1979)

Grand Canyon National Park(1979)

RedwoodsState and National Parks (1980)
Yosemite National Park (1984)

Mesa Verde National Park (1978)

Everglades National Park (1979)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1987)

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (1982)

Mammoth Cave National Park (1991)

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, jointly with Canada (1995)

Statue of Liberty National Monument (1984)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (1995)
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (1987)
Pueblo de Taos (1992)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1983)

Independence Hall, part of Independence National Historical Park (1979)

Monticello and the University of Virginia (1987)

Olympic National Park (1981)

Yellowstone National Park (1978)

La Fortaleza-San Juan National Historical Site (1983)

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