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Home // UNESCO World Heritage Site


UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Some folks would like to see White Sands National Monument included on the list of UNESCO'S World Heritage Sites.

Others are outraged and hate the idea.

What's going on?


On April 10, 2007, the National Park Service / U.S. Department of the Interior informs us via press release that White Sands National Monument is one of 36 sites that have applied for World Heritage Site status.

However, with this first application you only apply to get short listed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The shortlist will be (has been) submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Center by February 1, 2008. It will then take another year until a formal nomination from the list can be forwarded.

Read the April 10, 2007 Press Release

Read the January 25, 2008 Press Release


Confused? Read the World Heritage Site Nomination FAQs. Here is an excerpt:

Q: Why is the National Park Service pursuing a nomination?

A: We are pursuing nomination and inscription as a World Heritage Site for White Sands to gain international recognition for a unique and spectacular resource. We also feel this recognition could lead to increased visitation by international and domestic visitors.



The World Heritage List currently includes 851 properties world wide.

New Mexico has three World Heritage Sites: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Taos Pueblo and Chaco Culture National Historical Park. White Sands monument and Blackwater Draw in eastern New Mexico have been proposed for inclusion.

Check HERE for the full list. Twenty of these properties belong to the United States. And here they are listed below. Click on the site to learn more. All info provided by UNESCO.


U.S. World Heritage Sites (with dates of inscription)

Mesa Verde National Park (1978)

Yellowstone National Park (1978)

Everglades National Park (1979)

Grand Canyon National Park (1979)

Independence Hall (1979)

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek (1979, 1992, 1994)

Redwood National and State Parks (1980)

Mammoth Cave National Park (1981)

Olympic National Park (1981)

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (1982)

La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico (1983)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1983)

Statue of Liberty (1984)

Yosemite National Park (1984)

Chaco Culture (1987)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1987)

Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (1987)

Pueblo de Taos (1992)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (1995)

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (1995)


Who's for it? Who's against it?

Pete Domenici

Jeff Bingaman

One of the stipulations for application is "the strong support from elected officials." (WHAT'S THE FULL CRITERIA FOR ALL WORLD HERITAGE SITES?)

Among the supporters are New Mexico Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, State Representative Gloria Vaughn, Alamogordo Mayor Don Carroll, Las Cruces Mayor Bill Mattiace, White Sands Missile Range Director Tom Berard, and the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce.

Thus, White Sands Monument Superintendent Cliff Spencer has all his ducks in a row. Or does he?

Well, in his EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Spencer recognizes public concern regarding the fact that jurisdiction or control over White Sands National Monument might change hands in any way.

And concerned they are.


Gloria Vaughn

Don Carroll

Bill Mattiace

Tom Berard


Already 1,200 people have signed a petition NOT to submit White Sands to the UNESCO World Heritage program. Consequently, the Otero County Commission unanimously declared themselves against the proposal. The date? Thursday, August 16, 2007.

Otero County commissioners have sent a resolution to the National Parks Service and to their congressional delegation expressing their official desires that White Sands be removed from the list of those sites being considered as World Heritage Sites. The date? Friday, August 24, 2007.

The Otero County Commission passed an ordinance declaring that such proposals, if the county has not been consulted first, are unlawful. The date? October 18, 2007.

October 31, 2007 - The Department of the Interior, National Park Service, gives you the full month of November 2007 to submit public comments.

You can Send comments to: Jonathan Putnam, Office of International Affairs, NPS, 1201 Eye Street, NW., (0050), Washington, DC 20005; or via email at jonathan_putnam@nps.gov ; or via phone at 202/354–1809; or via fax at 202/371–1446. Also, you may send comments to Leonard Stowe, NPS
Information Collection Clearance Officer, 1849 C St., NW., (2605), Washington, DC 20240; or by e-mail at leonard_stowe@nps.gov. All comments will become a matter of public record.

Here is the excerpt from the Federal Register October 31, 2007 regarding the public comments.

And here is the October 2007 National Park Service News Release regarding the comments and with more information on the issue.


The objections to World Heritage listing are about the same as a 4-year old's fear of the monster in his bedroom closet. There isn't one. The point about the water really cracks me up. Two thirds of the planet is covered with water and it is LESS salty than the water in the Tularosa Basin. Who would want it???

Posted by Jim Eckles
Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mr. Jim Eckles characterizes those who favor the WHS designation. The resort to name-calling and putting down those with whom he disagrees. This fight in Otero County is about input and democracy. The NPS has violated two Otero County laws by forwarding the nomination and refusing to reconsider. The NPS is acting outside legal providence and pushing it's own will "We the people".

Surely, the County does not have the final say in this process but if it were up to the proponents and the NPS the County would have zero say. Also, it is curious that the NPS included letters of support from the County, the City and a Congressman who did not support the designation or did not have the authority to give support. The NPS quickly recalled the original application and made changes and admitted "errors" in the process yet will not give the legally passed laws of Otero County due consideration. In my view it is government supremacists who are pushing this agenda against the right Otero County has to give fair, honest, input at the beginning of the process, not at the end, like the NPS insists.

So, let the name-calling begin: Proponents will call those who want input "paranoid, uneducated, fear-mongers, and all manner of ugly names. Yet they will never address this one issue: democracy. What is the will of the people and do they have a right to express it though elected officials and does the federal government have the duty to listen or does it ram its own desires down the throat of those it deems paranoid or uneducated?

Posted by John Turney
Posted on Monday, November 12, 2007



If you wish to comment on this matter you are welcome to do so.
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