At BACKPACKER, it's no secret that we're pretty proud of our national parks; that's why you'll reliably see them in our pages and online. We'd argue they're worthy of international acknowledgment, but that's something the government hasn't pursued very actively since 1982.
That's all changing, though: Last year, the Interior Department developed a new list of potential UNESCO World Heritage sites to submit to the committee in hopes of inclusion. Also, after allowing our contribution to the World Heritage fund to drop to zero in 2001, we've finally upped our donation to $700,000 last year.
New nominees for World Heritage sites include the Petrified National Forest, White Sands National Monument, San Antonio's Franciscan missions, the ancient Native American Serpent Mound and Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in Ohio, Civil Rights movement sites in Alabama, and the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright. They would join current U.S. World Heritage sites like Olympic National Park, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Redwoods, the Statue of Liberty, the Everglades, Independence Hall, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Mammoth Cave.
Our return to form should erase some of the embarrassment of our inaction, considering the U.S. government under Nixon was the primary architect of the World Heritage commission in the 70s, and we were the first country to sign on. Ooops.
To help make sure we don't forget again, the National Park Service has even hired a mascot to promote and teach kids about its World Heritage sites. Wally the U.S. World Heritage Wolf guides kids (and adults—what?) through educational activities and games, and doles out info on becoming a U.S. World Heritage Junior Ranger.
Sign me up, Wally.
Image Credit: Johannes Brenner