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 nationâ€™s largest protected area. Also being nominated to the World Heritage List is Mount Vernon, Virginia, home of Americaâ€™s first president, George Washington. These are the United Statesâ€™ first nominations to be forwarded for consideration on the World Heritage List since 1994.
â€œThe nomination of PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monument recognizes its exceptional geological and ecological processes, its provision of critical habitat for some of the worldâ€™s most endangered species, and its sacred place in the history and culture of Native Hawaiian people,â€ said Governor Linda Lingle.
â€œWorld Heritage sites truly belong to all people of the world. 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,â€ Governor Lingle added.
The United States will now submit its nominations to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 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 â€“ such as East Africaâ€™s Serengeti, the Egyptian Pyramids, Australiaâ€™s Great Barrier Reef, Hawaiâ€˜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. It would be the U.S.â€™s first marine site, and the worldâ€™s first cultural seascape. 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 â€œmixedâ€ 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. 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 worldâ€™s most significant marine and island ecosystems, representing a major stage of the earthâ€™s evolutionary history, and 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, 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 worldâ€™s largest tropical seabird rookery.
UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage List protects and preserves natural and cultural heritage sites of â€œoutstanding universal valueâ€ 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 â€“ 679 cultural, 174 natural, and 25 mixed natural and cultural sites.
Additional information about the nomination process is posted at http://whc.unesco.org.