Many Americans have been disturbed to find that there are 22 areas in this nation that have been designated as United Nations’ World Heritage Sites. These sights are natural places such as parks or cultural monuments like Tom Jefferson’s home, Monticello.
As a result of a UN treaty called “The Convention Concerning Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage,” these sites come under the jurisdiction of the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Such designations have been the source of major debate as to whether the UN has infringed on sovereign American territory.
However, the debate may be about to rage even hotter. Because Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has just announced his selections of 14 more sites to be considered for nomination by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
Today, of the original 22 UN Heritage Sites that are located on American soil, fully 68 percent of American national parks, preserves and monuments are included in the UN designations.
The new sites will include Dayton, Ohio Wright Brothers-related aviation sites; Civil Rights Movement sites in Alabama; George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon in Virginia; Hopewell Indian Ceremonial Sites in my home town of Newark Ohio; and the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond, to name just a few of the selected sites. These will be added to the existing list that includes Independence Hall, Yellowstone Park and the Statue of Liberty.
Proponents of the UN Heritage Sites say such designations are nothing more than a great “honor” to the nation. They assure us that there is no threat to American sovereignty and that all designated sites remain firmly under control of the United States government.
If true, then the question must be asked, why is an international treaty with the United Nations necessary? The United States has already designated most of the UN Heritage Sites as United States parks or preserved historic sites. The land is already being preserved and protected for AMERICAN heritage purposes. These lands are valuable for their historical significance to this nation. REPEAT: WHY DO WE NEED AN INTERNATIONAL TREATY TO DO WHAT THE UNITED STATES HAS ALREADY DONE FOR ITSELF?
It is true that you will not find any UN documents clearly stating that the world body controls or owns American soil through the World Heritage Site Treaty. It is also true that you will not find blue-helmeted UN soldiers standing guard over any of the sites.
To fully understand the threat to American sovereignty posed by the UN designation of World Heritage Sites, one must first link this program to a series of other treaties and policies, and how they impact American sovereignty. Above all, one must understand that many in our government see such programs as another tool to build massive federal land-control programs.
There is strong evidence of close collaboration between the U.S. Park Service and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Committee. There is also strong evidence that the designation of UN World Heritage Sites goes hand in hand with the Administration’s Sustainable Development program. That program is nothing less than a massive federal zoning program that dictates property development on the local level, in the name of protecting the environment. The goal of Sustainable Development is to lock up vast areas of American land, and shield it from private use.
The designation of United Nations’ World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves can and does result in the centralization of policy-making authority at the federal level, particularly by the Executive Branch. Once a UN designation is made and accepted by the Federal Government there is literally no opportunity for private American land owners to dispute it or undo the designation.
Private property rights literally disappear, not only in the officially designated area, but worse, in buffer zones OUTSIDE the designated area. Not only has the federal government been using these treaties and agreements to limit access to, and use of these lands to all Americans, but they also have used the UN designations to limit use of private property OUTSIDE the boundaries of the site.
That is exactly what happened outside of Yellowstone National Park (a World Heritage Site) when UNESCO delegates were called in by the Park Service in an attempt to stop the development of a gold mine - located OUTSIDE the park. The UNESCO delegates declared Yellowstone to be the first “endangered” World Heritage Site and called for a protective buffer zone of 150-MILES IN DIAMETER AROUND THE ENTIRE PARK. The buffer zone would stop development and access to millions of acres of private property. Such is the purpose of the World Heritage Sites.
Moreover, in becoming party to these international land-use designations through Executive Branch action, the United States is indirectly agreeing to terms of international treaties, such as the Biodiversity Treaty - a UN treaty that has never been ratified by the United States Senate.
Nevertheless, in 1994, the U.S. State Department published the “Strategic Plan for the U.S. Biosphere Reserve Program.” Taken straight from the unratified Biodiversity Treaty, the State Department program is to “create a national network of biosphere reserves that represents the biogeographical diversity of the United States and fulfills the internationally established roles and functions of biosphere reserves.”
A chief tactic used by the UN and the Federal Government when designating a biosphere reserve or a World Heritage Site is to rarely involve or consult with the public and local governments. In fact, UNESCO policy actually discourages an open nomination for World Heritage Sites. The “Operational Guidelines for the Implementations of the World Heritage Convention” states:
“In all cases, as to maintain the objectivity of the evaluation process and to avoid possible embarrassment to those concerned, State (national) parties should refrain from giving undue publicity to the fact that a property has been nominated inscription pending the final decision of the Committee of the nomination in question. Participation of the local people in the nomination process is essential to make them feel a shared responsibility with the State party in the maintenance of the site, but should not prejudice future decision-making by the committee.”
In other words, the nominating committee is to hide the fact that a massive land grab is about to take place. Then, at the appropriate moment, the committee is to involve some local yokels to make them think they have something to say about the grab, then send them away, so that the committee can move ahead, unhindered. They aren’t suppose to worry about the fact that private landowners have just lost control of their property.
This is not the way the U.S. Constitution says things should be done. This is how despots at the United Nations run things. The Administration is allowing them to do it for the sake of more Federal power.
By allowing these international land use designations, the United States promises to protect the sites and REGULATE surrounding lands if necessary to protect the UN-designated area. Honoring these agreements forces the Federal Government to PROHIBIT or limit some uses of private lands outside the international designated area UNLESS OUR COUNTRY WANTS TO BREAK A PLEDGE TO OTHER NATIONS.
In a nutshell, here is the real game being played. Through such policies, the Federal Government is binding our nation to international treaties and agreements that stipulate that the United States will manage these lands in a prescribed manner in order to achieve certain international goals and objectives. In other words, we have agreed to limit our right of sovereignty over these lands.
That is why it is charged that World Heritage Sites are an infringement on United States sovereignty. You won’t find the smoking gun by reading the treaties. It can only be found in understanding the “intent” and the “implementation” of the policies.
Tom Deweese the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and is the President of the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, Virginia.
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