The UNESCO World Heritage Committee named 21 new World Heritage sites this week, citing their cultural and natural significance, and their universal value to humanity. A total of 911 places, both natural and man-made, have now have been given the designation. But they also named four places that are on their watch list; the Everglades is the only such site in the United States. Geotourism intern Jonathan King gives us the details.
Following a three-year hiatus, The Everglades National Park
has returned to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. It is currently the only North American site on the list. The World Heritage Committee, which convened for its 34th session from July 25 through August 3, believes that the value of the park’s natural heritage is jeopardized by “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem.” The committee first named the Everglades to its list of endangered sites after Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on southern Florida’s already delicate ecological integrity in 1993. In recognition of restoration efforts, the park was removed from the endangered list in 2007.
In The National Geographic Society’s annual Destination Scorecard, a sustainability ranking of many of the world’s major tourist destinations, the Everglades ranked 26th out of 37 in 2004 and 27th out of 27 in 2005. To determine a destination’s ranking, we survey experts from a variety of tourism-related fields for their opinions. In both years, survey participants primarily criticized the poor management of nearby urban expansion. Too much water has been diverted to growing urban areas. As a result, habitats have been destroyed and biodiversity has decreased. Hopefully, the Word Heritage Committee’s recent decision will bring greater attention to the fragile state of one of the world’s iconic and unique ecotourism destinations.
Photo: Chris Johns
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