Department of the Interior
|Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2006
Contact: Shane Wolfe
World Heritage Committee Commends U.S. Efforts at Everglades and Approves Benchmarks for Possible Removal from List of World Heritage in Danger
VILNIUS, LITHUANIA -- The World Heritage Committee today took a major step in addressing the possible future removal of Everglades National Park from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The international conservation committee adopted an approved set of benchmarks, developed in cooperation with the National Park Service and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The benchmarks establish specific actions that are essential to restoring the ecosystem of Everglades National Park. Once achieved, the benchmarks may serve as the basis for the Committee’s recognition of the commitment of the United States, including the State of Florida, to restoration of the Everglades ecosystem, supporting possible removal of the site from its List of World Heritage in Danger. Achievement of the approved benchmarks does not represent completion of the Everglades ecosystem restoration effort, a program that is expected to take over 30 years.
“We are delighted at this recognition and affirmation of the U.S. Government’s on-going efforts and commitment to the comprehensive restoration of the Everglades ecosystem,” said Louise Oliver, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “This should boost the morale of those involved in this multi-decade, multi-billion-dollar restoration project.”
“The Committee has been very impressed with the U.S. commitment to restore the Everglades ecosystem and has asked the U.S. on several occasions to develop these benchmarks in order to facilitate a potential future decision to remove Everglades from the List of World Heritage in Danger,” said Paul Hoffman, with the U.S. Department of the Interior and head of the U.S. delegation. Hoffman explained that placement of a World Heritage Site on the list is intended to call the attention of the responsible government and the world community to specific and imminent threats facing the site. Once the Committee is persuaded that actions to address the threats are being taken, the Committee customarily removes the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The U.S. and the State of Florida continue to make significant progress in the effort to restore the Everglades, and more is planned.
“The set of benchmarks approved by the Committee today establish specific on-the-ground actions that, when achieved, will result in major ecosystem restoration benefits for the park and set the stage for full restoration of this unique and complex ecosystem,” said Dan Kimball, Everglades National Park Superintendent. Kimball also noted that in addition to assisting the Committee in its evaluation of the World Heritage in Danger listing of the Park, the approved benchmarks encourage achievement of the Park’s near-term ecosystem restoration goals and also call for restoration actions that are fundamental to the Park’s longer-term goals of a fully restored Everglades ecosystem.
Everglades National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1993 following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew and the accumulation of previous threats that developed over many years.
The World Heritage Committee is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention. President Nixon was a strong advocate for this premier international conservation convention, and the U.S. became the first signatory when the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty 95-0 in 1973. Today, there are 182 signatories and 812 sites on the World Heritage List, of which 20 are in the U.S. The U.S. was elected in October 2005 to serve on the 21-nation World Heritage Committee until 2009.
IUCN -- the World Conservation Union -- is the World Heritage Committee advisory body for natural heritage issues and recommended the approval of the benchmarks.