President George W. Bush at a news conference today in Washington, D.C. announced the nomination of PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monument to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre for consideration to the World Heritage List.
The Monument, which includes the islands and waters of the northwestern Hawaiian archipelago, is the nation’s largest protected area. Â Also being nominated to the World Heritage List is Mount Vernon, Virginia, home of America’s first president, George Washington. These are the United States’ first nominations to be forwarded for consideration on the World Heritage List since 1994.
“The nomination of PapahÄnaumokuÄkea 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.
“World Heritage sites truly belong to all people of the world. Â They incorporate the most universal and significant aspects of natural and cultural heritage as well as legacy of the past and present for future generations,” Governor Lingle added.
The United States will now submit its nominations to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Â Following the submission of the nomination package, PapahÄnaumokuÄkea will undergo an 18-month review by the advisory bodies to UNESCO World Heritage Centre, International Union for Conservation of Nature for its natural resource heritage, and by the International Council on Monuments and Sites for its cultural resource heritage. The final nominations would be considered by the World Heritage Committee in the summer of 2010.
If inscribed under the World Heritage Convention, PapahÄnaumokuÄkea would join a globally exclusive list of sites with outstanding universal value that are unique and diverse – such as East Africa’s Serengeti, the Egyptian Pyramids, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, and the Galapagos Islands.
PapahÄnaumokuÄkea is the first site nominated with cultural connections to the sea, and adds to underrepresented World Heritage sites from the Pacific. Â It would be the U.S.’s first marine site, and the world’s first cultural seascape. Â If inscribed, it will become only the 26th World Heritage Site to be recognized globally for both its natural and cultural significance, out of 878 sites currently on the list.
PapahÄnaumokuÄkea is being nominated as a “mixed” site (for both its natural and cultural resource values) because of its unique geology, ecology, biology, Native Hawaiian cultural heritage, and its significance to the world.
Native Hawaiians view the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as an integral part of the archipelago and a deeply spiritual location. Â Physical remnants of wahi kÅ«puna (ancestral places) and oral traditions provide evidence of the various past uses of the islands and surrounding ocean by Native Hawaiians both as a home and a place of worship.
The Monument contains one of the world’s most significant marine and island ecosystems, representing a major stage of the earth’s evolutionary history, and habitats where rare and endangered plant and animal species still survive. Â It is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth, the largest nesting albatross colony in the world, and the primary habitat for critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green turtles.
The NWHI provide habitat for 23 threatened and endangered species, most found nowhere else in the world, such as the Nihoa Finch and a species of loulu or palm called Pritchardia remota.
The beaches and waters constitute the foraging and nesting grounds for nearly the entire population of the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal, and 90 percent of the threatened Hawaiian Green Turtle.
Over 14 million seabirds nest in the islands and forage in the waters of the Monument, making the NWHI the world’s largest tropical seabird rookery.
UNESCO’s World Heritage List protects and preserves natural and cultural heritage sites of “outstanding universal value” as determined by the standards and process established under the World Heritage Convention, the most widely adopted international agreement for the conservation of natural and preservation of culture.
World Heritage Sites currently include 878 sites from 144 countries – 679 cultural, 174 natural, and 25 mixed natural and cultural sites.
Additional information about the nomination process is posted at http://whc.unesco.org.
The Lingle-Aiona Administration has worked closely with the federal government, as well as environmental and cultural organizations to support the protection of the PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monument. Â In September 2005, after a three-and-a-half-year public process that resulted in more than 25,000 public comments, Governor Lingle established a State Marine Refuge in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that set aside all State waters as a limited access, no-take marine protected area. Â This created the largest marine conservation area in the history of the State, protecting 1,026 square miles of coral reefs from the shoreline to three miles offshore. Â The Administration also worked closely with the federal government to ensure similar protections at the national level, which culminated with the President’s designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a marine national monument in June 2006.
PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monument is administered jointly by three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior and the State of Hawai`i – and represents a cooperative conservation approach to protecting the entire ecosystem. Â Co-trustee agencies in cooperation with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs manage the monument through the Monument Management Board. Â The Monument area includes the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of Midway National Memorial, Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary, and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge. Â For more information, please go to papahanaumokuakea.gov.
Over the past 10 months, PapahÄnaumokuÄkea’s UNESCO nomination package was led by the State of Hawai`i and prepared collaboratively with various National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offices, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs with assistance and peer reviews provided by members of the Native Hawaiian community, National Park Service, Bishop Museum, academia, and international experts.
(Posted:Â Tuesday, January 06, 2009)Â (Image Courtesy:Â NOAA)