Yellowstone National Park
Factors affecting the property in 1995*
- Forestry /wood production
- Ground transport infrastructure
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Invasive / alien freshwater species
- Oil and gas
- Renewable energy facilities
- Surface water pollution
- Other Threats:
Infection threat to bison population
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1995
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 1995**
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1995
The Centre has received documentation concerning Yellowstone National Park from a group of fourteen North American conservation organizations. The documents raise serious questions about potential damage to Yellowstone National Park in particular from a proposed mining operation. A draft environmental impact statement is under way. The Centre contacted the American authorities to advise them of the concerns of the World Heritage Centre.
In May the Centre received a letter from the State Party requesting a joint mission by the Centre and IUCN to make an interim assessment of the mining proposal and that the Committee give consideration to placing Yellowstone National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1995
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.
Summary of the interventions
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1995
19 BUR VI.20
Yellowstone National Park ‘(United States of America)
The Centre informed the Bureau that detailed documentation concerning Yellowstone National Park was received from a group of fourteen North American conservation organizations. The documents raise serious questions about potential damage to Yellowstone National Park in particular from a proposed mining operation. A draft environmental impact statement is underway. The Centre contacted the American authorities to advise them of the concerns of the World Heritage Centre. Letters by the National Park Service and by the Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife addressed to the Centre are requesting a joint mission, by the Centre and IUCN, to make an interim assessment of the mining proposal and that the Committee give consideration to placing Yellowstone National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Delegate of Germany raised concern about the serious threats to the world's first National Park to be established. The Bureau recalled Article 6.3 of the World Heritage Convention. The Canadian Observer underlined that the proposed mining operation was to be carried out by a privately-owned American company. IUCN recalled a range of other threats outlined in a recent IUCN publication, such as deforestation by a religious group, tourism impact and wildlife policies. The Observer from the United States invited the Centre and IUCN to visit the site and to review the situation before the end of August. The Bureau decided that: (1) a letter from the Chairman of the World Heritage Committee be written to the States Party, underlining the serious concerns of the Bureau; (2) that a joint mission should take place to the site, subject to extrabudgetary funding, and (3) that a report on the impact of the proposed mine as well as an outline of other threats facing Yellowstone, should be made available for the nineteenth session of the World Heritage Committee.
19 COM VII.A.2.22/15
SOC: Yellowstone National Park (United States of America)
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.
19 COM VIII.A.5
Inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger: Yellowstone National Park (United States of America)
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."
Documents examined by the Committee19COM (1995)
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”).