VII.22 Yellowstone National Park (United States of America)
The Committee recalled that Yellowstone National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978 and that it is the first National Park in the world. It furthermore recalled that the Bureau discussed the potential threats to Yellowstone at its last session in July 1995. The Bureau had requested a joint mission to the site to review the situation. The mission was carried out in September 1995 by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, representatives of the World Heritage Centre, and a representative of IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA). During this mission, three days of public discussions took place and many technical reports were received from industry, governments and NGOs.
The Representative of the United States noted that the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, in a letter dated 27 June 1995, wrote that "the Committee should be informed that the property as inscribed on the World Heritage List is in danger." In a follow-up letter dated 1 December 1995, the Assistant Secretary provided an update on the situation. The Representative of the United States further noted that the State Party is taking a number of positive steps to address key issues. The National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) requires a thorough and detailed environmental impact study (EIS), of the mine proposal by a multi-national corporate consortium.
At the moment nine possible alternatives are being considered. The EIS draft is expected in late January 1996 and further public and government review will last another year. He stated that the State Party does not consider action by the Committee to be an intervention in domestic law or policy. The State Party agreed to keep the Committee fully informed with respect to actions to be taken.
During the site visit it became clear that threats to the Park were ascertained in relation to endemic Yellowstone cut-throat trout as well as with respect to the sewage leakage and wastes contamination in certain areas of the Park. Other issues were related to road construction and year-round visitor pressures. In addition, potential threats included impacts on the quantity and quality of surface and ground-water and other past and proposed mine-related activities. A potential threat to the bison population is related to proposed control measures to eradicate brucellosis in the herds. The State Party noted that all of these concerns would be thoroughly analyzed and mitigation measures and management plans developed as appropriate. Corrective actions will be taken as necessary.
During the discussion it was noted that whether the State Party should grant a permit to the mining company or not is entirely a domestic decision of the State Party. It was further stated that there is no wording in the Convention or the Operational Guidelines which could lead to an interference in sovereignty. It was also noted that even if the State Party did not request action, the Committee still had an independent responsibility to take action based on the information it had gathered. The Convention was referred to as an emergent tool to assist all States Parties in conservation.
After considerable discussion the Committee decided the following:
On the basis of both ascertained dangers and potential dangers, the Committee decided that Yellowstone National Park be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger and that the Committee should request continuing reports on the results of the EIS and mitigating actions being taken to ensure in due course the removal of the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger.