NPS Plans to Update U.S. Tentative List in 2016

A Tentative List is an official list developed by each signatory to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, as required by the World Heritage Committee, of properties that are believed by a country to meet the criteria for World Heritage listing and from which a country may make nominations to the World Heritage List. Only properties included on the U.S. Tentative List are eligible for nomination by the Department of the Interior. Inclusion on the Tentative List does not, however, guarantee future nomination.

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has announced plans to update the U.S. Tentative List for the first time since the current one was developed and formally submitted to the World Heritage Committee in 2008. At the time it was developed, the 2008 U.S. list included 14 properties or groups of properties from among 35 that submitted applications to the Department of the Interior. Five of these properties have since been nominated: Three have been successfully included on the World Heritage List, one was withdrawn after nomination, and one nomination is pending. The NPS has said that sites remaining on the current tentative list will be invited to remain on the revised Tentative List if they are interested to do so.


The process of updating the 2008 list began with calls for public comment in 2011 and 2012.  The more recent of these occurred on March 5, 2012 when the Department of the Interior issued a First Notice for the public to comment on the next potential U.S. nominations from the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List to the UNESCO World Heritage List, and on possible additions to the Tentative List. (77 Federal 13147-13149). The notice was issued to comply with Sec. 73.7(c) of the World Heritage Program regulations (36 CFR part 73).

According to the 2012 Notice, the Department was considering whether to initiate the preparation of draft nominations for any of the remaining properties on the Tentative List to the World Heritage List. The Department indicated that it would consider both public comments received during the comment period and the advice of the Federal Interagency Panel for World Heritage (the Panel) in making a final decision on any future nominations.

That notice indicated that suggestions for additions to the Tentative List not previously submitted must address: (i) How well the property(ies) meet the World Heritage nomination criteria, requirements for authenticity, integrity, legal protection and management and (ii) the U.S. legal prerequisites that include the agreement of all property owners to the nomination of their property, an official determination that the property is nationally significant (such as by designation as a National Historic or National Natural Landmark), and effective legal protection.

The earlier public comment period ran from December 14, 2010-January 14, 2011 pursuant to a “30-Day Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment on U.S. Nominations to the World Heritage List and Potential Additions to the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List” (75 Fed. Reg. 77901-77903).  Among the comments received pursuant to the 2011 comment period were the comments of the US Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.   The ACHP provided those comments in its statutory role of advisor to the President and the Congress and as one of three federal agencies named in Section 401 of the National Historic Preservation Act (§16 U.S.C. 470a-1) as consulting agencies with the Department of the Interior (DOI) on the implementation of the World Heritage Program.  Among other things, the ACHP recommended that in updating the U.S. list, the Department be guided by the guidance provided by the ICOMOS study entitled: “The World Heritage List, Filling the Gaps – an Action Plan for the Future,” which identifies areas in the current World Heritage List that are underrepresented.

The National Park Service has indicated that the feedback it received from many stakeholders expressed the view that the application process used the last time the US Tentative List was updated in 2008 was unsuccessful in identifying the best possible range of potential World Heritage properties in the United States.  As a result, the NPS said, the Department would undertake a different process for the current effort, one that will not use applications.

The NPS’s current effort makes use of a Working Group established as a sub-committee of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, a Federal Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of State. The organizations comprising the Working Group (see below) were selected, the NPS has said, to provide expertise in the full range of subject areas that can be considered for World Heritage; they also incorporate the member agencies of the Interagency Panel, which advises DOI. The National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs (NPS-OIA), which provides technical support on World Heritage to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, is staffing this effort including interacting with the Working Group.

Members of the World Heritage Working Group for the 2016 U.S. World Heritage Tentative List are the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, Smithsonian Institution; U.S. National Committee, International Council on Monuments and Sites; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH); IUCN-World Commission on Protected Areas; U.S. National Park Service Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; Society of Architectural Historians; American Historical Association; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Marine Sanctuary Foundation; Geological Society of America; National Geographic Society; and the U.S. State Department.

The NPS has said that the target completion date for the updating of the U.S. Tentative List is 2016.

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