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106th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session 106-142
AMERICAN LAND SOVEREIGNTY PROTECTION ACT
May 13, 1999.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Young of Alaska, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 883]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 883) to preserve the sovereignty of the United States
over public lands and acquired lands owned by the United
States, and to preserve State sovereignty and private property
rights in non-Federal lands surrounding those public lands and
acquired lands, having considered the same, report favorably
thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.
Purpose of the Bill
H.R. 883 will restore the Constitutional role of Congress
in managing lands belonging to the United States, preserve the
sovereignty of the United States over these lands, and protect
State sovereignty and private property rights in non-federal
lands adjacent to federal lands.
Background and Need for Legislation
The American Land Sovereignty Protection Act (H.R. 883)
asserts the Constitutional power of Congress over management
and use of lands belonging to the United States. Under Article
IV, section 3 of the United States Constitution, the power to
make all needful rules and regulations governing lands
belonging to the United States is vested in Congress. Yet over
the last 25 years, an increasing expanse of our nation's public
lands have been included in various international land use
programs, most notably United Nations Biosphere Reserves and
World Heritage Sites, with virtually no Congressional oversight
or approval. The international agreement covering World
Heritage Sites, for example, largely leaves Congress out of the
United Nations World Heritage Sites, Ramsar Sites and
Biosphere Reserves are under the jurisdiction of the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO). World Heritage Sites and Ramsar Sites are recognized
by UNESCO under ``The Convention Concerning Protection of the
World Cultural and Natural Heritage'' (World Heritage
Convention) and ``The Convention on Wetlands of International
Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat'' (Ramsar
Convention), respectively. Biosphere Reserves are part of the
U.S. Man and Biosphere Program which operates in conjunction
with a worldwide program under UNESCO. The U.S. Man and
Biosphere Program is not authorized by Congress and has no
legislative direction. Over 68 percent of the land in our
national parks, preserves and monuments have been designated as
United Nations World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves or
both. Biosphere Reserves alone cover an area about the size of
Colorado, our eighth largest state. There are now 47 UNESCO
Biosphere Reserves, 20 World Heritage Sites and 16 Ramsar Sites
in the United States.
In becoming a party to these international land use
agreements through Executive Branch action, the United States
may be indirectly agreeing to terms of international treaties,
such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which the
United States is not a party or which the United States Senate
has refused to ratify. For example, The Seville Strategy for
Biosphere Reserves recommends that participating countries
``integrate biosphere reserves in strategies for biodiversity
conservation and sustainable use, in plans for protected areas,
and in the national biodiversity strategies and action plans
provided for in Article 6 of the Convention on Biological
Diversity.'' Furthermore, the Strategic Plan for the U.S.
Biosphere Reserve Program published in 1994 by the U.S. State
Department states that a goal of the U.S. Biosphere Reserve
Program is to ``create a national network of biosphere reserves
that represents the biogeographical diversity of the United
States and fulfills the internationally established roles and
functions of biosphere reserves.''
Also disturbing is that designation of Biospheres and World
Heritage Sites rarely involve consulting the public and local
governments. At the five hearings held on the American Land
Sovereignty Protection Act since the 104th Congress, state and
local elected officials as well as grassroots citizen activists
from Alaska, Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, New Mexico and New
York testified that no one consulted with the public or local
governments when international land designations were made in
their states. The domestic designation process for World
Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves is so controversial that
the Alaska, Colorado and Montana state legislatures have passed
resolutions in support of the American Land Sovereignty
Protection Act. In addition, the Kentucky State Senate recently
passed a resolution opposing creation of any biosphere reserves
within Kentucky and supporting the concepts embodied in this
In fact, UNESCO policy apparently discourages an open
nomination process for World Heritage Sites. The Operational
Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage
In all cases, as to maintain the objectivity of the
evaluation process and to avoid possible embarrassment
to those concerned, State [national] parties should
refrain from giving undue publicity to the fact that a
property has been nominated * * * pending the final
decision of the Committee of the nomination in
question. Participation of the local people in the
nomination process is essential to make them feel a
shared responsibility with the State party in the
maintenance of the site, but should not prejudice
future decision-making by the committee.
By allowing these international land use designations, the
United States promises to protect designated areas and regulate
surrounding lands if necessary to protect the designated site.
Honoring these international agreements could force the federal
government to prohibit or limit some uses of private lands
inside or outside the designated reserve unless our country
wants to break a pledge to other nations. At a minimum, this
puts U.S. land policy-makers in an awkward position.
Federal regulatory actions could cause a significant
adverse impact on the value of private property and on the
local and regional economy. The involvement of the World
Heritage Committee (WHC) in the National Environmental Policy
Act review process for the New World Mine Project near
Yellowstone National Park, a World Heritage Site, exemplifies
this problem. The New World mine project is outside of the
boundary of Yellowstone National Park and is not included in
the World Heritage Site. In fact, nearly all of the proposed
minesite is located on private property, and U.S. law (16
U.S.C. 470a-1(c)) prohibits including any non-federal property
within a U.S. World Heritage Site without the consent of the
The fact that the proposed project was not a part of the
Yellowstone World Heritage Site did not prevent the WHC from
holding a ``hearing'' on the project. Creation of a buffer
zone, possibly ten times as large as the Park, was suggested by
at least one member of the WHC. However, by excluding the
federal lands on which a small part of the New World Mine
Project lies from an adjoiningwilderness area, Congress had
already determined not to create such a buffer zone and to make these
lands available for multiple uses, including mining.
It is clear from this example, that at best, World Heritage
Site and Biosphere Reserve designations give the international
community an open invitation to interfere in U.S. domestic land
use decisions. More seriously, these international agreements
potentially have several significant adverse effects on the
American system of government. Domestic land use policy-making
authority is further centralized at the federal/Executive
Branch level, and the role that ordinary citizens have in the
making of this policy through their elected representatives is
diminished. The Executive Branch may also invoke these
international agreements in an attempt to administratively
achieve an action within the jurisdiction of Congress, but
without consulting Congress. The current framework for
implementing the World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve
programs has eaten away at the power and sovereignty of the
Congress to exercise its constitutional power to make the laws
that govern U.S.-owned land.
Perhaps the most serious problem with international
agreements, such as the World Heritage Convention, is that the
international bodies which administer them do not represent the
American people and cannot be held accountable by them. In a
May 5, 1999, letter to Congressman Bruce Vento, former U.N.
Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick says it best:
In U.N. organizations, there is no accountability.
U.N. bureaucrats are far removed from the American
voters. Many of the States Parties in the World
Heritage Treaty are not democracies. Some come from
countries that do not allow the ownership of private
property. The World Heritage and Man and the Biosphere
committees make decisions affecting the land and lives
of Americans. Some of these decisions are made by
representatives chosen by governments not based on
democratic representation, certainly not on the
representation of Americans. What recourse does an
American voter have when U.N. bureaucrats from Cuba or
Iraq or Libya (all of which are parties to this Treaty)
have made a decision that unjustly damages his or her
property rights that lie near a national park?
H.R. 883 was introduced on March 1, 1999, by Congressman
Don Young (R-AK) along with 125 original cosponsors. The bill
was referred to the Committee on Resources.
On March 18, 1999, the Committee held a legislative hearing
in Washington, D.C., on H.R. 883. A total of 13 witnesses
testified. Ten witnesses, including the Hon. Jeane J.
Kirkpatrick, Ambassador to the U.N. during President Reagan's
administration, testified. Ambassador Kirkpatrick said that
Congress should not cede its Constitutional powers and
responsibilities to a global organization in which affected
Americans have no representation. Dr. Jeremy Rabkin, a
professor in the Department of Government at Cornell
University, discussed the Constitutional problems with
international agreements such as the Convention Concerning
Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Other
witnesses which testified in support of H.R. 883 include a
former mining executive associated with the New World Project,
an Arizona rancher, a representative from the Concerned Women
for America, and a representative from a labor organization.
Witnesses for the Department of State and the Department of the
Interior testified against H.R. 883. A representative from a
historical preservation group also spoke against the bill.
On May 1, 1999, the Committee held a field legislative
hearing in Rolla, Missouri, on H.R. 883. Twelve witnesses
testified including a county commissioner, representatives from
several state and local property rights groups, representatives
from labor and business trade associations and concerned
citizens. All of the witnesses testified in favor of H.R. 883.
Three environmental groups were invited to testify at this
hearing, but they declined the invitations.
Many of the witnesses at the Rolla hearing spoke first-hand
about their recent experience with the Biosphere Reserve
nomination process associated with the ill-fated Ozark
Highlands Man and Biosphere proposal. All of the witnesses said
that neither the public at large nor local governments had any
meaningful input into the development of this proposal. In
fact, most people in southern Missouri were unaware that such a
proposal was even being developed.
On May 5, 1999, the Full Resources Committee met to
consider H.R. 883. The bill was ordered favorably reported
without amendment to the House of Representatives by a
bipartisan roll call vote of 26-14, as follows:
Section 1. Short title
This section states that the Act may be cited as the
``American Land Sovereignty Protection Act''.
Section 2. Findings and purpose
Section 2 makes eight findings which basically state that:
(1) the constitutional power to make rules and regulations
governing lands belonging to the United States lies with
Congress; (2) actions in creating lands with international
designations may affect the use and value of nearby or
intermixed non-federal lands; and (3) actions by the President
in applying international designations to lands owned by the
United States may conflict with Congressional Constitutional
This section further states that the purpose of H.R. 883 is
to assert the power of Congress over the management and use of
lands belonging to the United States, to protect State powers
not reserved to the federal government, and to ensure that no
United States citizen suffers any diminishment or loss of
individual rights or private property rights as a result of
federal actions designating lands pursuant to international
Section 3. Clarification of congressional role in World Heritage Site
Section 3 amends the National Historic Preservation Act to
compel the Secretary of Interior to require the legislative
consent of Congress to any nomination of a property located in
the United States for inclusion on the World Heritage List
pursuant to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the
World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The Secretary may not
nominate a property until the Secretary makes a finding that
existing commercially viable uses of the nominated land or land
within ten miles of the nomination will not be adversely
affected by inclusion on the World Heritage List, and must
submit a report to Congress describing the impacts that
inclusion on the World Heritage List would have on the natural
resources associated with these lands. The Secretary is also
required to obtain Congressional approval before assenting to
the designation of any United States site on the World Heritage
List as a Site in Danger under the World Heritage Convention.
The Secretary must submit an annual report to Congress
providing specified information on each World Heritage site
within the United States.
Section 4. Prohibition and termination of unauthorized United Nations
Section 4 amends the National Historic Preservation Act to
prohibit federal officials from nominating any land in the
United States for designation as a Biosphere Reserve. Existing
United States Biosphere Reserves are terminated unless: (1) the
Biosphere Reserve is specifically authorized in subsequently
enacted law by December 31, 2000; (2) the designated Biosphere
Reserve entirely consists of lands owned by the United States;
and (3) a management plan for the Biosphere Reserve has been
implemented which specifically provides for the protection of
non-federal property rights anduses. The Secretary of State is
to submit an annual report to Congress providing specified information
on each Biosphere Reserve in the United States.
Section 5. International agreements in general
Section 5 amends the National Historic Preservation Act to
prohibit federal officials from designating any land in the
United States for a special or restricted use under any
international agreement unless such designation is specifically
approved by law. ``International agreement'' means any treaty,
compact, executive agreement, convention, or bilateral
agreement between the United States and any foreign entity or
agency of any foreign entity, having a primary purpose of
conserving, preserving, or protecting the terrestrial or marine
environment, flora, or fauna. The amendments made by this
section do not apply to agreements established under the North
American Wetlands Conservation Act, and conventions referred to
in section 3(h)(3) of the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of
Lands owned by State or local governments may not be
included within the boundaries of any area designated for a
special or restricted use under any international agreement
unless the designation is approved by a law enacted by the
State or local government, respectively.
No privately owned lands may be included within the
boundaries of any area designated for a special or restricted
use under any international agreement unless the owner of the
property concurs with such action in writing.
Section 6. Clerical amendment
This section updates a reference to the Committee on
Resources in the National Historic Preservation Act Amendments
Committee Oversight Findings and Recommendations
With respect to the requirements of clause 2(l)(3) of rule
XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, and clause
2(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives,
the Committee on Resources' oversight findings and
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.
Constitutional Authority Statement
Article I, section 8 and Article IV, section 3 of the
Constitution of the United States grant Congress the authority
to enact H.R. 883.
Compliance With House Rule XI
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B)
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2)
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in
revenues or tax expenditures.
3. Government Reform Oversight Findings. Under clause
3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives, the Committee has received no report of
oversight findings and recommendations from the Committee on
Government Reform on this bill.
4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, May 7, 1999.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed costs estimate for H.R. 883, the American
Land Sovereignty Protection Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis.
Barry B. Anderson
(For Dan L. Crippen, Director).
H.R. 883--American Land Sovereignty Protection Act
CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 883 would have no
significant impact on the federal budget. The bill would not
affect direct spending or receipts; therefore, pay-as-you-go
procedures would not apply. H.R. 883 contains no private-sector
or intergovernmental mandates as defined in the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state,
local, or tribal governments.
H.R. 883 would prohibit any federal official from
nominating or designating any federal land for a special or
restricted use under any international agreement unless
specifically authorized by law, with certain exceptions.
Moreover, the bill would make ineffective the designation of
any area in the United States under such agreements unless the
designation is specifically authorized either by written
permission from the landowner (for private property), or by
state or local law (for property owned by such governments).
Designations of federal land would be ineffective as well,
unless authorized by federal legislation enacted after
enactment of H.R. 883 but before December 31, 2000. These
provisions would affect designations of land under programs
such as the World Heritage List and the Man and Biosphere
Program of the United Nations. H.R. 883 would require the
Secretaries of State and the Interior to submit annual reports
to the Congress on each site designated under these programs.
In addition, before nominating any federal property for the
World Heritage List, the Secretary of the Interior would have
to report to the Congress on the area's natural resources and
the effects that the listing would have on existing or future
uses of the site or other lands within a 10-mile range.
CBO estimates that the Department of State and the
Department of the Interior (DOI) would incur minor expenses to
collect information (such as budget and staffing data by site)
and to submit annual reports to the Congress. DOI also might
incur some costs (for data gathering and reporting) if it
chooses to nominate any sites for the World Heritage List, but
we do not expect these to be significant. The bill would have
no impact on other federal agencies.
The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis. This estimate was
approved by Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy Assistant Director for
Compliance With Public Law 104-4
H.R. 883 contains no unfunded mandates.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is
proposed is shown in roman):
TITLE IV OF THE NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1980
TITLE IV--INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES AND WORLD HERITAGE CONVENTION
Sec. 401. (a) [The Secretary] Subject to subsections (b),
(c), (d), and (e), the Secretary of the Interior shall direct
and coordinate United States participation in the Convention
Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural
Heritage, approved by the Senate on October 26, 1973 (in this
section referred to as the ``Convention''), in cooperation with
the Secretary of State, the Smithsonian Institution, and the
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Whenever possible,
expenditures incurred in carrying out activities in cooperation
with other nations and international organizations shall be
paid for in such excess currency of the country or area where
the expense is incurred as may be available to the United
(b) The Secretary of the Interior shall periodically nominate
properties he determines are of international significance to
the World Heritage Committee on behalf of the United States. No
property may be so nominated unless it has previously been
determined to be of national significance. Each such nomination
shall include evidence of such legal protections as may be
necessary to ensure preservation of the property and its
environment (including restrictive covenants, easements, or
other forms of protection). Before making any such nomination,
the Secretary shall notify the [Committee on Natural Resources]
Committee on Resources of the United States House of
Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources of the United States Senate.
* * * * * * *
(d)(1) The Secretary of the Interior may not nominate any
lands owned by the United States for inclusion on the World
Heritage List pursuant to the Convention, unless--
(A) the Secretary finds with reasonable basis that
commercially viable uses of the nominated lands, and
commercially viable uses of other lands located within
10 miles of the nominated lands, in existence on the
date of the nomination will not be adversely affected
by inclusion of the lands on the World Heritage List,
and publishes that finding;
(B) the Secretary has submitted to the Congress a
(i) natural resources associated with the
lands referred to in subparagraph (A); and
(ii) the impacts that inclusion of the
nominated lands on the World Heritage List
would have on existing and future uses of the
nominated lands or other lands located within
10 miles of the nominated lands; and
(C) the nomination is specifically authorized by a
law enacted after the date of enactment of the American
Land Sovereignty Protection Act and after the date of
publication of a finding under subparagraph (A) for the
(2) The President may submit to the Speaker of the House of
Representatives and the President of the Senate a proposal for
legislation authorizing such a nomination after publication of
a finding under paragraph (1)(A) for the nomination.
(e) The Secretary of the Interior shall object to the
inclusion of any property in the United States on the list of
World Heritage in Danger established under Article 11.4 of the
(1) the Secretary has submitted to the Speaker of the
House of Representatives and the President of the
Senate a report describing--
(A) the necessity for including that property
on the list;
(B) the natural resources associated with the
(C) the impacts that inclusion of the
property on the list would have on existing and
future uses of the property and other property
located within 10 miles of the property
proposed for inclusion; and
(2) the Secretary is specifically authorized to
assent to the inclusion of the property on the list, by
a joint resolution of the Congress after the date of
submittal of the report required by paragraph (1).
(f) The Secretary of the Interior shall submit an annual
report on each World Heritage Site within the United States to
the Chairman and Ranking Minority member of the Committee on
Resources of the House of Representatives and of the Committee
on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate, that contains
for the year covered by the report the following information
for the site:
(1) An accounting of all money expended to manage the
(2) A summary of Federal full time equivalent hours
related to management of the site.
(3) A list and explanation of all nongovernmental
organizations that contributed to the management of the
(4) A summary and account of the disposition of
complaints received by the Secretary related to
management of the site.
* * * * * * *
Sec. 403. (a) No Federal official may nominate any lands in
the United States for designation as a Biosphere Reserve under
the Man and Biosphere Program of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
(b) Any designation on or before the date of enactment of the
American Land Sovereignty Protection Act of an area in the
United States as a Biosphere Reserve under the Man and
Biosphere Program of the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organization shall not have, and shall
not be given, any force or effect, unless the Biosphere
(1) is specifically authorized by a law enacted after
that date of enactment and before December 31, 2000;
(2) consists solely of lands that on that date of
enactment are owned by the United States; and
(3) is subject to a management plan that specifically
ensures that the use of intermixed or adjacent non-
Federal property is not limited or restricted as a
result of that designation.
(c) The Secretary of State shall submit an annual report on
each Biosphere Reserve within the United States to the Chairman
and Ranking Minority member of the Committee on Resources of
the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and
Natural Resources of the Senate, that contains for the year
covered by the report the following information for the
(1) An accounting of all money expended to manage the
(2) A summary of Federal full time equivalent hours
related to management of the reserve.
(3) A list and explanation of all nongovernmental
organizations that contributed to the management of the
(4) A summary and account of the disposition of the
complaints received by the Secretary related to
management of the reserve.
Sec. 404. (a) No Federal official may nominate, classify, or
designate any lands owned by the United States and located
within the United States for a special or restricted use under
any international agreement unless such nomination,
classification, or designation is specifically authorized by
law. The President may from time to time submit to the Speaker
of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate
proposals for legislation authorizing such a nomination,
classification, or designation.
(b) A nomination, classification, or designation, under any
international agreement, of lands owned by a State or local
government shall have no force or effect unless the nomination,
classification, or designation is specifically authorized by a
law enacted by the State or local government, respectively.
(c) A nomination, classification, or designation, under any
international agreement, of privately owned lands shall have no
force or effect without the written consent of the owner of the
(d) This section shall not apply to--
(1) agreements established under section 16(a) of the
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (16 U.S.C.
(2) conventions referred to in section 3(h)(3) of the
Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C.
(e) In this section, the term ``international agreement''
means any treaty, compact, executive agreement, convention,
bilateral agreement, or multilateral agreement between the
United States or any agency of the United States and any
foreign entity or agency of any foreign entity, having a
primary purpose of conserving, preserving, or protecting the
terrestrial or marine environment, flora, or fauna.
H.R. 883 is unnecessary legislation which seeks to address
a phantom problem of concern only to extremist, anti-
environmental groups. Similar dubious legislation has failed in
two previous Congresses, and H.R. 883 deserves the same fate.
H.R. 883 will require congressional authorization for any
further participation in several voluntary international
conservation programs. While we support responsible
congressional oversight regarding these programs, this measure
is an attempt to micro-manage and, in practical effect,
preclude further U.S. participation in important conservation
The World Heritage Convention--proposed by the United
States under the Nixon Administration--is an international
agreement which encourages signatory countries to voluntarily
nominate culturally or historically significant sites within
their borders for inclusion on the list of World Heritage
Sites. To be eligible for listing, the sites must already be
protected under the laws of the host country and nothing in the
Convention alters the ownership or use of these lands. Sites
are nominated because they are already being protected, not the
other way around.
The Man and the Biosphere Program is a voluntary,
cooperative program organized by the U.N. Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the goal of
which is to identify areas where entire ecosystems might be
studied and then compared with similar ecosystems located in
other countries. As with the World Heritage Convention, the Man
and the Biosphere Program imposes no new land use restrictions
and does not alter the ownership status of the land in any way.
In addition to effectively ending U.S. participation in
these two specific programs, H.R. 883 would require
Congressional authorization before any U.S. lands could be
nominated for ``special or restricted'' use under any
``international agreement,'' the primary purpose of which is to
conserve, preserve, or protect the ``terrestrial or marine
environment, flora or fauna.'' As a result, the congressional
approval mandate would also apply to a third agreement, the
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially
as Waterfowl Habitat (known as the Ramsar Convention), and
present a barrier to any future agreement.
Rather than subjugating Americans to United Nations
hegemony, these programs have worked for decades to establish
the United States as a world leader in efforts to identify,
protect and preserve important environmental and historical
sites around the globe. This legislation will effectively
withdraw the United States from these programs and send a
signal around the world that we no longer value such
U.S. participation in these programs was a promise to other
nations that we would continue our efforts to protect important
sites within our own borders and an invitation for them to
follow our example. H.R. 883 breaks that important promise and
revokes that invitation. What's worse, this legislation takes
these steps in an effort to capitalize on misguided xenophobia
on behalf of interests which seek to weaken U.S. efforts to
conserve public lands and resources.
Grace F. Napolitano.
A P P E N D I X
May 5, 1999.
Hon. Bruce F. Vento,
House of Representatives, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington,
Dear Mr. Vento: Thank you for your letters of March 24th
and April 28th regarding my testimony before the House
Resources Committee on the March 18th hearing of the American
land Sovereignty Protection Act, H.R. 883. In my opinion the
important issue here is protection of Americans' rights of
democratic process. I sought to emphasize the dangers I see in
Congress' waiving of its role and responsibilities over matters
which fundamentally affect citizens of the United States and
ceding that role and its associated powers to a global
organization in which affected Americans have no
As I understand it, the proposed Act does nothing more than
affirm Congressional role in the management of our public
lands, a role mandated to it by the Constitution under Article
IV, Section 3, which states: ``The Congress shall have Power to
dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations
respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the
United States.'' I believe that is a clearly worded duty which
Congress is bound by the Constitution to uphold.
Your letter raises several questions concerning my
testimony, each of which I have addressed below.
I. Please explain the simultaneous decision to continue our active
participation in the World Heritage Convention and the U.S. Man and the
Biosphere Program [after your support for the successful U.S.
withdrawal from UNESCO], both of which are coordinated at the
international level by UNESCO.
The United States' Permanent Representative to the United
Nations oversees U.S. participation in many United Nations'
programs and organizations, including aspects of U.S.
participation in UNESCO. The World Heritage and Man and the
Biosphere programs, however, were not among them when I held
As you know, the Department of the Interior has primary
responsibility for the World Heritage and the Biosphere
programs. The Department of the Interior, along with a federal
interagency panel controls all aspects of these programs. No
member of Congress is included on this panel. Neither was a
United States' U.N. Ambassador when I held that position. The
Code of Federal Regulations July 21, 1980 public notice of
proposed U.S. World Heritage Nominations for 1981 states U.S.
law at the time I was our UN Ambassador:
``In the United States, the Secretary of the Interior
is charged with implementing the provisions of the
Convention, including preparation of U.S. nominations.
Recommendations on the proposed nominations are made to
the Secretary by an interagency panel including members
from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Fish and
Wildlife and Parks, the Heritage Conservation and
Recreation Service, the National Park Service, and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of
the Interior; the President's Council on Environmental
Quality; the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation;
and the Department of State.'' \1\ (Emphasis added).
\1\ ``Proposed U.S. Work Heritage Nominations for 1981, Public
Notice,'' 45 FR 48717, July 21, 1980. You will find the same language
in each annual notice.
I was never included on the panel as the Department of State
Representative. I was never invited to participate in any
decisions concerning these programs.
I raised the issue of the U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO to
make a point: the UNESCO of the 1980's demonstrates quite well
both an example of an incompetent and corrupt international
organization and the nearly insurmountable obstacles of trying
to reform it and hold it accountable. During my tenure as U.S.
Ambassador, I sought to limit the proliferation and scope of
U.N. based of international organizations which were
accountable to no responsible, democratically elected
government. This discussion serves to reinforce the point I was
trying to make during my testimony, namely, that Congress
should take an active role in the oversight of programs which
impact private citizens in this country.
II. [A]s you know, 7 of the 20 World Heritage Sites in the United
States were listed as such during your tenure as our Ambassador to the
U.N. In your capacity as U.N. Ambassador, did you oppose these
nominations based on the fact that Congress had not specifically
authorized these listings? At any point in your tenure, did you attempt
to have any existing designations withdrawn on the same basis?
I refer you to my answer above. The Department of the
Interior is charged with implementing the provisions of this
program, not the United States' U.N. Representative's office. I
had no role and I was not aware of the details of these
programs. Now, however, that this issue has ripened, I believe
it is time to restore Congress' proper role in this matter.
III. ``Your prepared testimony * * * includes the statement,
`International Committees--whatever the substance of their decisions--
do not represent the American people and cannot be held accountable by
them,' (emphasis added). It is accurate to conclude from this statement
that you believe specific Congressional authorization should be
required for U.S. participation in any program which involves an
`international committee?' ''
Obviously, these committees do not represent the American
people. That is not their function. I want to be absolutely
clear on this point. Only our representatives on those
committees represent Americans. Obviously, the Cuban or Libyan
delegates to these committees do not represent the American
people and, in fact, often oppose American interests,
regardless of the issue. Neither do the New Zealand--to take a
country at random--or Brazil. The United States' Congress, on
the other hand, is elected by and does, in fact, represent the
American people. U.N. based committees, unlike Congress, are
not accountable to the American people because they have not
been elected by or chosen in any way by the American people.
They do not represent and are not concerned with U.S. national
interests nor the interests of U.S. citizens.
In this democracy, the citizens grant powers to our elected
leaders through our votes from the local and state levels up to
the Congress and the Presidency. We give them the power to
declare our lands national parks and the right to enact the
laws that restrict our use of our properties. We give our duly
elected leaders the authority to select the judges who will
interpret those laws. Our elected leaders, in turn, respond to
our wishes because, just as we have granted them power, so may
we take it from them in the next election. Representation and
accountability are the foundation of the freedoms we cherish.
Having fought and won elections yourself, you know this
In U.N. organizations, there is no accountability. U.N.
bureaucrats are far removed from the American voters. Many of
the States Parties in the WorldHeritage Treaty are not
democracies. Some come from countries that do not allow the ownership
of private property. The World Heritage and Man and the Biosphere
committees made decisions affecting the land and lives of Americans.
Some of these decisions are made by representatives chosen by
governments not based on democratic representation, certainly not on
the representation of Americans. What recourse does an American voter
have when U.N. bureaucrats from Cuba or Iraq or Libya (all of which are
parties to this Treaty) have made a decision that unjustly damages his
or her property rights that lie near a national park? When the World
Heritage committee's meddling has needlessly encumbered a private
United States citizen's land and caused his or her property values to
fall, that citizen's appeals to these committees (if that is even
possible) will fall on deaf ears.
As for your question ``Is it accurate to conclude from this
statement that you believe specific Congressional authorization
should be required for U.S. participation in any program which
involves an `international committee?,''' my answer is, in any
U.N. based committee which makes decisions that importantly
affect American citizens. Speaking to the issue at hand, which
is the requirement of congressional authorization of World
Heritage and Biosphere site designations, I definitely believe
congressional authorization should be required. Congressional
role should be protected, I believe, should be required, in any
process, any time the Constitution specifically places a duty
on Congress to act. The question presented here is specific.
The Constitution mandates congressional responsibility over
public land management. The World Heritage and Biosphere
programs directly impact the management of public and private
lands in the United States. Congress should be involved.
The Constitution grants and requires Congress' broad
control over the management of the public lands. The Executive
branch, through the Department of the Interior and in
conjunction with the World Heritage and Man and the Biosphere
programs (the ``international committees'' created by this
Convention) should not be allowed to exercise Congress'
IV. ``Should Congressional authorization be required for any
international agreements/contracts which allow use of our national
resources and public lands, such as mining or timber harvesting? If it
is the case that your support for requiring Congressional authorization
is limited only to those areas included in H.R. 883, please explain the
specific characteristics of ``international committees' dealing with
conservation which makes them particularly threatening?''
First of all, as you know, any U.N. based agreements or
contracts which allow use of our natural resources and public
lands require various forms of authorization from our elected
officials. In this particular case, the authorization must come
from Congress. The Convention itself requires that ``the
inclusion of a property in the World Heritage List requires the
consent of the State governed.'' [Article II, Section 3] The
State in question is the United States and its consent requires
the consent of the people through their duly elected
representatives in accordance with the Constitution. That means
Congress, the body delegated the authority over land management
by the Constitution. The ``American Land Sovereignty Protection
Act'' is consistent with both U.S. and international law.
In the second part of your question, you ask what are the
specific characteristics of ``international committees' dealing
with conservation which makes them particularly threatening?''
My answer is, those committees which affect substantial
interests of U.S. citizens. If American citizens have an
interest in the conservation of a particular area, that
decision should be made by Congress, the body delegated
responsibility by the Constitution for making these decisions
in full view of the American public. And if each decision
requires consideration of costs and benefits to the property
rights of individual voters affected, so be it. UNESCO
committees are not competent to address the complex private
property and public interest issues presented here. They have
no interest in how their actions affect private U.S. citizens.
I believe Congress should not abdicate its responsibilities for
land management to international groups whose members have no
concern for protecting individual property rights and American
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick.