World Heritage
in the USA

Welcome to World Heritage USA


The World Heritage Convention is the most widely accepted international conservation treaty in human history. Most Americans don't know the foundational role that the United States played in its inception and the role that the United States continues to play today.

The United States: First in World Heritage

  • The World Heritage Convention --adopted by UNESCO in 1972--was founded on the American national park idea and its combined conservation of cultural and natural sites.
  • The U.S. was the first nation to propose a "World Heritage Trust" in 1965 and was then the first to ratify the World Heritage Convention in 1972.
  • Yellowstone National Park was the first World Heritage site, listed in 1978 along with Mesa Verde National Park and 10 other sites around the world.
  • The International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is an essential advisor to UNESCO and the World Heritage Programme. US/ICOMOS, founded in 1965, was the first of the national committees, now numbering more than 100, and remains a robust and active member of the global network.

Advantages of World Heritage Listing

  • Tourism and Sustainable Development: World Heritage Site designation is the only global marker of Outstanding Universal Value. People the world over increasingly use this stamp of approval when planning travel. Sites with robust tourism planning, implementation and management enjoy the economic and quality of life benefits of World Heritage List inscription.
  • Recognition, Pride and Stewardship: World Heritage sites are an important source of pride to those in the community, and thus often enjoy better support and spur better conservation efforts. The formal recognition of Outstanding Universal Value results in greater understanding, appreciation, and protection.

World Heritage Listing Does Not Affect Ownership Rights

  • Direct authority over individual properties remains with the organization in charge of the site.
  • Properties not owned by the federal government are nominated only if their owners wish to do so and pledge to protect their property in perpetuity.
World Hertiage - Patrimonio Mundial
The World Heritage Emblem symbolizes the interdependence of cultural and natural properties. The central square represents the result of human skill and inspiration and the circle represents nature, the two being intimately linked.