ASLA Urges Jewell to Help Move US World Heritage Sites Forward



On December 12, 2013, ASLA Executive Vice President Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to work with Congress to find a solution that would allow the United States to continue its participation in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention after losing its UNESCO vote for failure to pay dues.

“Unfortunately, this non-payment of UNESCO dues may have some unintended consequences” said Somerville.  “If steps are not taken, the designation of World Heritage sites in the United States, including two recently nominated sites: the Poverty Point site in northeastern Louisiana; and the San Antonio Franciscan Missions could be in jeopardy.”

Recently, the United States formally lost its vote in UNESCO due to the non-payment of dues because of a law that prevents the United States’ involvement in organizations that grant membership to an entity that does not have internationally recognized attributes of statehood.  In 2011, UNESCO added Palestine as a full member, which triggered the law and prevented the U.S. from paying its UNESCO dues.

Last summer, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment, as part of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill that would have allowed the U.S. to pay a portion of its UNESCO dues that could go toward the World Heritage Fund, which could help in supporting the U.S. nominations for World Heritage Sites.  However, congressional budget negotiations stalemated, prevented this measure from moving forward.  With a recent budget deal announced by Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (WI), there may be another opportunity to craft a solution for the World Heritage Fund.

Since 1954, UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention has designated 900 World Heritage Sites, with 21 in the United States, including the Grand Canyon, the Redwood National and State parks, the Everglades, Taos Pueblo, the Great Smokey Mountains, and others.  “Designating World Heritage Sites, not only helps preserve and protect these important spaces, it also helps contribute to our local economies through tourism and hospitality revenues,” said Somerville.




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