Comment deadline is tomorrow for World Heritage nominations

A pristine Pacific island chain and George Washington's beloved home are this year's proposed nominees for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The list provides formal recognition of the planet's most significant cultural and natural treasures. The United States is eligible to recommend two sites for consideration each year.

"Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in northwest Hawaii and Mount Vernon in Virginia are two significant American sites with global implications. They deserve consideration for the international recognition that comes with being named to the World Heritage List," said NPS Director Mary Bomar. "I invite public comment on the probable nominees and the other sites identified with them on the U.S. tentative list."

This year's candidates were culled from a list of 14 properties named for consideration in January. Citizens are encouraged to provide their thoughts on any of the sites during a 15-day public comment period that started last Wednesday.

Detailed information on the sites and how to submit comments is available through the Federal Register at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan2008/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-5499.pdf.

Comments should be e-mailed to Jonathon_Putnam@nps.gov or mailed to his attention at 1201 Eye Street NW, (0050), Washington, D.C. 20005.

To be considered, proposed sites must meet stringent World Heritage criteria demonstrating international significance. There are also U.S. prerequisites including a prior determination of national importance, such as designation as a National Historic or National Natural Landmark and established plans to protect the site in perpetuity.

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument protects a 1,200-mile-long string of islands and adjacent waters.

The monument, designated in 2006, is the longest, clearest and oldest example of island formation and atoll evolution in the world. One of the islands, Midway, became the focus of its namesake battle in June 1942 - the turning point of World War II in the Pacific. Today, marine life remains abundant and diverse, with many species found nowhere else in the world in this remote and still relatively pristine part of the Pacific.

The Monument is jointly managed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii.

Mount Vernon, George Washington's long-time home, is a remarkable example of an 18th century American plantation. A core of 16 surviving historic structures, situated within a landscape of associated gardens, fences, lanes, walkways and other features on the Potomac River, provides insight into Washington and the time in which he lived.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has owned and maintained the property for more than 150 years and remains a leader in the historic preservation movement in the United States.

The World Heritage Committee, composed of representatives of 21 nations elected as the governing body under the World Heritage Convention, makes the final decisions on which nominations to accept on the World Heritage List at its annual summer meeting. There are currently 851 sites worldwide, including Grand Canyon.

The National Park Service serves as the principal technical agency for the U.S. Government to the Convention and manages all or parts of 17 of the 20 U.S. World Heritage Sites currently listed including Yellowstone National Park and the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

Inclusion as a World Heritage Site does not impose legal restrictions on owners or neighbors of sites, nor does it give the United Nations any management authority or ownership rights in U.S. World Heritage Sites, which continue to be subject to U.S. law.

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