State of Conservation (SOC)
Yellowstone National Park (1995)
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Total Amount Ap proved:0USD
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
Current conservation issues
In February 1995 the World Heritage Centre was informed by a U.S. consortium of 14 prominent NGOs of a variety of internal and external threats to the Yellowstone World Heritage site. The State Party responded by letter which was presented to the nineteenth session of the Bureau held at UNESCO Headquarters in July 1995. In the response, the State Party expressed similar concerns with respect to potential threats to Yellowstone and in lieu of a detailed monitoring report extended to the Chairman an invitation to send Committee and IUCN representatives on a monitoring mission to Yellowstone and invited the Committee to consider placing the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This could be accomplished under paragraph 72 (ii) (b & d) of the Operational Guidelines, as revised, February, 1994. The mission took place in September 1995.
A report is presently awaited on the Environmental Impact Assessment which is being prepared by U.S. Government officials as well as a report to be submitted by IUCN. It is expected that these will be available for the Committee meeting and a report will be made at that time.
Link to the decision
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.
Link to the decision
During its examination of monitoring reports, the committee noted threats to Yellowstone National Park (United States of America). 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.
The Bureau recommends the Committee to examine the information contained in the working document and the oral report provided by the Secretariat/advisory body. The Bureau recommends the Committee to adopt the following:
"On the basis of both ascertained dangers and potential dangers, the Committee recommends 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."
Yellowstone National Park
United States of America
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Detailed List of SOC reports
Infection threat to bison population
Inscription on the Danger ListYear: 1995 -2003
Threats to the Site:
- Geothermal development and other subsurface drillings,
- Grizzli bears mortalities and habitat loss due to timber harvesting, oil and gas development, road and home building, mining,
- Lake trout invasion is a threat to indigenous cutthroat trout and other species,
- Bison and elk threatened due to proposals to try and eridacate disease from them,
- Heavy metals and acid pollution from abandoned mining tailings,
- Increased visitor use,
- Water related concerns due to a proposed New World mine.
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).