Seventy One More United Nation’s Heritage Sites Planned

Many Americans have been disturbed to find that there are 22 areas in this nation that have been designated as United Nations’ World Heritage Sites. These sights are natural places such as parks or cultural monuments like Tom Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

As a result of a UN treaty called “The Convention Concerning Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage,” such sites come under the jurisdiction of the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Such designations have been the source of major debate as to whether the UN has gained control of sovereign American territory.

However, the debate may be about to rage even hotter. Because a quick look at the UNESCO web site on the World Wide Web reveals a list of 71 more sites, located within 32 states, that have been proposed for future United Nations’ World Heritage Areas.

Today, of the original 22 UN Heritage Sites that are located on American soil, fully 68 percent of American national parks, preserves and monuments are included in the UN designations. Once the additional 71 sites are in place, that percentage of American park land will soar.

The new sites will include the Washington Monument, the original Bell Telephone Laboratory and the Brooklyn Bridge. These will be added to the existing list that includes Independence Hall, Yellowstone Park and the Statue of Liberty.

The list also includes vast areas of park lands and wilderness areas such as the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, Joshua Tree National Monument in California, and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, to name just a few.

Supporters of the UN Heritage Sites say such designations are nothing more than a great “honor” to the nation. They assure us that there is no threat to American sovereignty and that all designated sites remain firmly under control of the United States government.

If true, then the question must be asked, why is an international treaty with the United Nations necessary? The United States has already designated most of the UN Heritage Sites as United States parks. The land is already being preserved and protected for AMERICAN heritage purposes. These lands are valuable for their historical significance to this nation. REPEAT: WHY DO WE NEED AN INTERNATIONAL TREATY TO DO WHAT THE UNITED STATES HAS ALREADY DONE FOR ITSELF?

Who Owns World Heritage Sites?

It is true that you will not find any UN documents clearly stating that the world body controls or owns American soil through the World Heritage Site Treaty. It is also true that you will not find blue-helmeted UN soldiers standing guard over any of the sites.

To fully understand the threat to American sovereignty posed by the UN designation of World Heritage Sites, one must first link this program to a series of other treaties and policies, and how they impact American sovereignty. Above all, one must understand that many in the Clinton Administration, including Vice President Al Gore, see such programs as another tool to build massive federal land-control programs.

There is strong evidence of close collaboration between the U.S. Park Service and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Committee. There is also strong evidence that the designation of UN World Heritage Sites goes hand in hand with the Administration’s Sustainable Development program. That program is nothing less than a massive federal zoning program that dictates property development on the local level, in the name of protecting the environment. The goal of Sustainable Development is to lock up vast areas of American land, and shield it from private use.

The designation of United Nations’ World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves can and does result in the centralization of policy-making authority at the federal level, particularly by the Executive Branch. Once a UN designation is made and accepted by the Federal Government there is literally no opportunity for private American land owners to dispute it or undo the designation.

Private property rights literally disappear, not only in the officially designated area, but worse, in buffer zones OUTSIDE the designated area. Not only has the federal government been using these treaties and agreements to limit access to, and use of, these lands to all Americans, but they also have used the UN designations to limit use of private property OUTSIDE the boundaries of the site.

That is exactly what happened outside of Yellowstone National Park (a World Heritage Site) when UNESCO delegates were called in by the Park Service in an attempt to stop the development of a gold mine – located OUTSIDE the park. The UNESCO delegates declared Yellowstone to be the first “endangered” World Heritage Site and called for a protective buffer zone of 150 MILES IN DIAMETER AROUND THE ENTIRE PARK. Such a buffer zone would stop development and access to millions of acres of private property. Such is the purpose of the World Heritage Sites.

Moreover, in becoming party to these international land-use designations through Executive Branch action, the United States is indirectly agreeing to terms of international treaties, such as the Biodiversity Treaty – a UN treaty that has never been ratified by the United States Senate.

Nevertheless, in 1994, the U.S. State Department published the “Strategic Plan for the U.S. Biosphere Reserve Program.” Taken straight from the unratified Biodiversity Treaty, the State Department program is to “create a national network of biosphere reserves that represents the biogeographical diversity of the United States and fulfills the internationally established roles and functions of biosphere reserves.”

A chief tactic used by the UN and the Federal Government when designating a biosphere reserve or a World Heritage Site is to rarely involve or consult with the public and local governments. In fact, UNESCO policy actually discourages an open nomination for World Heritage Sites. The “Operational Guidelines for the Implementations of the World Heritage Convention” state:

“In all cases, as to maintain the objectivity of the evaluation process and to avoid possible embarrassment to those concerned, State (national) parties should refrain from giving undue publicity to the fact that a property has been nominated inscription pending the final decision of the Committee of the nomination in question. Participation of the local people in the nomination process is essential to make them feel a shared responsibility with the State party in the maintenance of the site, but should not prejudice future decision-making by the committee.”

In other words, the nominating committee is to hide the fact that a massive land grab is about to take place. Then, at the appropriate moment, the committee is to involve some local yokels to make them think they have something to say about the grab, then send them away, so that the committee can move ahead, unhindered. They aren’t to worry about the fact that private landowners have just lost control of their property.

This is not the way the U.S. Constitution says things should be done. This is how despots at the United Nations run things. The Clinton Administration is allowing them to do it for the sake of more Federal power.

By allowing these international land use designations, the United States promises to protect the sites and REGULATE surrounding lands if necessary to protect the UN-designated area. Honoring these agreements forces the Federal Government to PROHIBIT or limit some uses of private lands outside the international designated area UNLESS OUR COUNTRY WANTS TO BREAK A PLEDGE TO OTHER NATIONS.

In a nutshell, here is the real game being played. Through such policies, the Federal Government is binding our nation to international treaties and agreements that stipulate that the United States will manage these lands in a prescribed manner in order to achieve certain international goals and objectives. In other words, we have agreed to limit our right of sovereignty over these lands.

That is why it is charged that World Heritage Sites are an infringement on United States sovereignty. You won’t find the smoking gun by reading the treaties. It can only be found in understanding the “intent” and the “implementation” of the policies.

There Must Be Congressional Action To Stop It

The Clinton Administration is moving rapidly to implement unratified UN treaties and is working hand in hand with UNESCO to designate still more World Heritage Sites. None of this has been authorized by Congress.

Included in the 68 percent of our national parks, preserves and monuments already designated as United Nations’ World Heritage Sites, UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserves cover an area about the size of Colorado. There are now 47 UNESCO Biosphere reserves in the United States. Now UNESCO is planning 71 more. The private property rights of millions of Americans will be at stake when those designations are made.

To stop this unrelenting assault on American sovereignty, Congressman Don Young of Alaska introduced H.R. 901 (The American Lands Sovereignty Protection Act) in the early days of the 105th Congress. The bill reestablishes congressional oversight over UN designations and ensures that public input is allowed in the process. It is the only way property owners will have to protect their rights in the process. The bill was passed in the House by a vote of 236 to 191.

But before the bill can become law, it must pass the Senate. Finally a Senate Sponsor has been found. Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell has introduced S.2098.

Senator Campbell is now urgently seeking co-sponsors for the bill in order to get consideration in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Senator Frank Murkowski.

But Senator Murkowski will not take action on the bill unless there is a major show of support from Americans across the nation. The bill is controversial and is vigorously opposed by the massive environmental lobby. In fact, environmentalists refused to even participate in Committee hearings when the bill was debated in the House of Representatives.

But “time” has now become the worst enemy of the American Lands Sovereignty Protection Act (S.2098). Because if Senate action is not taken before the 105th Congress adjourns in October, the bill will die. The process will have to start all over again in the 106th Congress.

The American Lands Sovereignty Protection Act (S.2098) represents the best great hope that Americans, who love their sovereign nation, have ever been able to muster against the United Nations’ land grab. To save our liberties, S.2098 must not be allowed to die. Now is the time to mount a massive fight in the U.S. Senate to pass it.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.