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World Heritage Convention

Decision 25 BUR V.62-63
Yellowstone National Park (USA)

V.62       The Bureau learnt that the State Party has provided a detailed report on the state of conservation of Yellowstone; the salient features of the report are:

  • Although the New World Mine had been acquired from its owner, i.e. Crown Butte Mines, for US$ 65 million and hence will not be developed, clean-up of old mining waste rock and tailings left over from 100 years of mining activity is critical to the ecological health of the Park; the US Forest Service has began remedial measures to mitigate the effects of historic mining in 2001;
  • Concerned Federal and State of Montana agencies have reached agreement in December 2000 on the long-term management of bison and have signed their respective Records of Decision. The Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture signed the Federal Record of Decision on 20 December 2000. The long-term plan for the management of bison uses adaptive management to reduce risk of transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle and conserve wild, free ranging bison. All Federal and State of Montana agencies will work together to prevent any future need for the widespread slaughter of bison witnessed in 1996-1997 and meet the twin objectives of maintaining the Yellowstone’s wild and free-ranging bison herd and Montana’s brucellosis class-free status;
  • Efforts to conserve the Yellowstone native cutthroat trout, threatened by invasive non-native lake trout, continue to progress; intensive gill netting and liberal angling regulations for controlling lake trout have been effective only for large adults and in spawning grounds. In the absence of effective control methods for reducing numbers of juvenile lake trout and halving lake trout populations each year, conservation of cutthroat trout is unlikely to be assured. Cutthroat trout populations are still declining; they are also threatened by possible spread of the whirling disease detected among fish caught from the Yellowstone Lake since 1998. Continued cutthroat trout declines could result in significant ecosystem wide effects;
  • All of the Park’s regulated fuel tanks have been replaced with double-walled tanks; many non-regulated ones have also been subjected to the same treatment or have been switched to propane that is less susceptible to contaminating water. Contaminated soils from the removed or upgraded tanks have been excavated and are stored for final treatment and disposal. The Park has had a number of sewage problems arising from the many outdated facilities and associated infrastructure over the past decades, but 2000 began to show some slow, but important improvements which continue in current and projected budgets;
  • Funding commitment has been established to allow road improvement projects to begin and continue through to 2004; an on-going programme is proposed through  2017 for upgrading remaining roads in the Park;
  • A decision to phase out snowmobile use in Yellowstone over the next three years was made in November 2000 with regulations promulgated in January 2001. The plan has been developed following years of research showing that the vehicles cause excessive pollution, placing Park visitors, employees, and wildlife at risk, as well as overwhelming the Park’s attractions with noise. Eventually multi-passenger snow-coaches will be the only motorised winter access to the Park over snow. The gradual phase out of snowmobiles is intended to allow local businesses that depend heavily on snowmobile tourism to increase the number of snow-coaches and adjust to the Park Service’s decision. The Park Service has begun to address summer visitation and is co-operating with a number of different institutions to find integrated solutions to transportation and energy for gateway communities and national parks in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

V.63       The Bureau thanked the Government of the United States of America for the comprehensive report submitted and commended the Park’s decision to replace snowmobiles with multi-passenger snow-coaches to serve winter visitors. The Bureau requested the Centre and IUCN to undertake a detailed review of the report and discuss with the State Party future steps in the considerations of the Committee with regard to the monitoring of the state of conservation of Yellowstone and the possible timing of the removal of Yellowstone from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Bureau recommended that the Centre, IUCN and the State Party submit a progress report on the outcome of the full review of the report and the associated discussions to the December 2001 session of the Committee in Finland.

Decision Code
25 BUR V.62-63
States Parties 1
State of conservation reports
2001 Yellowstone National Park
Context of Decision