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Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument nominated


President Bush has announced the nomination of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre for consideration to the World Heritage List.

The monument, which includes the islands and waters of the northwestern Hawaiian archipelago, is the nation’s largest protected area. Also nominated Tuesday, Jan. 6 at a press conference in Washington, D.C. to the World Heritage List is Mount Vernon, Va., home of America’s first president George Washington. These are the United States’ first nominations to be forwarded for consideration on the World Heritage List since 1994.

“The nomination of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument recognizes its exceptional geological and ecological processes, its provision of critical habitat for some of the world’s most endangered species, and its sacred place in the history and culture of Native Hawaiian people,” Gov. Linda Lingle said.

The final nominations would be considered by the World Heritage Committee in the summer of 2010.

If inscribed under the World Heritage Convention, Papahanaumokuakea would join a globally exclusive list of sites with outstanding universal value that are unique and diverse – such as East Africa’s Serengeti, the Egyptian Pyramids, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the Galapagos Islands. World Heritage Sites currently include 878 sites from 144 countries – 679 cultural, 174 natural, and 25 mixed natural and cultural sites.

Papahanaumokuakea is the first site nominated with cultural connections to the sea, and adds to underrepresented World Heritage sites from the Pacific. It would be the U.S.’s first marine site, and the world’s first cultural seascape.

The monument is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth, the largest nesting albatross colony in the world, and the primary habitat for critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green turtles.

The NWHI provide habitat for 23 threatened and endangered species, most found nowhere else in the world, such as the Nihoa Finch and a species of loulu or palm called Pritchardia remota.

The beaches and waters constitute the foraging and nesting grounds for nearly the entire population of the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, and 90 percent of the threatened Hawaiian green turtle.

Over 14 million seabirds nest in the islands and forage in the waters of the monument, making the NWHI the world’s largest tropical seabird rookery.

The monument area includes the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of Midway National Memorial, Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary, and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge.

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is administered by three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior and the State of Hawaii – and represents a cooperative conservation approach to protecting the entire ecosystem.

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