VII.13 Yellowstone National Park (United States of America)
At its last session (Naples, 1997), the Committee noted that the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Lands and Minerals Management and the Under Secretary of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment had both signed, on 12 August 1997, the decision authorizing the withdrawal of mineral entry from 22,065 ha near Cooke City, Montana. The potential threat due to the extraction of the New World Mine by Crown Butte was thus mitigated. The Delegate of the United States of America informed the Committee that since then his Government has entered into an additional agreement with Crown Butte to devote US$ 22.5 million of the US$ 65 million to clean up contamination from nearly 100 years of mining near Yellowstone. The New World Mine property was formally transferred to the US Forest Service on 12 August 1998; the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency have begun developing a plan to remedy historic mine impacts.
A potential threat to Yellowstone's bison population arises from the concerns of the livestock regulatory officials that free-ranging bison might transmit brucellosis to domestic cattle on private and public lands outside the Park. These concerns have resulted in a law-suit being brought against the National Park Service in 1995, and created pressure on the Park authorities to develop an interim plan which, amongst other measures, foresaw the capture and slaughter of bison which are infected with the disease both within and outside of the Park. Given that the capture and slaughter outrages the public, bison management is likely to remain contentious. The work of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Committee is facilitating information exchange among several state and federal agencies and is addressing various issues regarding brucellosis in wildlife, notably bison and elk. The purchase of 15,000 acres of critical areas of the bison's winter range, in November 1998, may contribute further towards the development of a long-term bison management plan that would minimize the need for widespread slaughter witnessed in the winter of 1997.
The ascertained threat to the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, caused by the invasion of the non-native Yellowstone Lake trout also continues to prevail, despite the fact various mitigation measures are being attempted. A serious decline in the population of cutthroat trout could impact grizzly bears, bald eagle and 40 other mammalian and avian species which feed on the native fish species to some extent. Intensive gill netting and liberal angling regulations have helped to remove more then 6000 non-native trout from the Yellowstone Lake. But netting programmes appear to be affecting adults only and the population of the non-native species could show a resurgence as juveniles enter the fishery.
The Park management continues its efforts to address other ascertained threats to water quality due to leaking wastes and sewage and regulate visitor pressure and improve Park roads to ensure safety of visitors. While the Park management is investigating several options to minimize the impacts of these threats, progress in implementing remedial actions is slow and the Delegate of the United States informed the Committee that his Government believes that Yellowstone is still in Danger. The Committee agreed with the request of the State Party and decided to retain Yellowstone in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Committee applauded the exemplary dedication and highest levels of commitment that the US Government has shown in its efforts to mitigate threats to the two sites included in the List of World Heritage in Danger.