1997 Scorecard Vote
The United States is an influential leader in global conservation efforts. For 25 years it has been a leader in international efforts to protect natural and cultural resources through its participation in the World Heritage Convention and the U.S. Man and Biosphere Program. World Heritage sites are places that have been recognized as world-class natural and cultural resources worthy of preservation. Of the 20 World Heritage sites in the United States, 17 are national parks including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Independence Hall, and the Statue of Liberty. Biosphere Reserves are established to represent the world's varied ecosystems and provide opportunities for scientific research and sustainable economic development. The 47 Biosphere Reserves in the United States include 30 national parks, among them, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Both programs promote worldwide protection of natural and cultural resources by enhancing public awareness and facilitating greater international scientific cooperation.
International research and recognition has benefited many of the designated areas. Designations are issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) only upon request of the local community and country in which the site is located.
In May and June 1997, the Congressional Research Service issued fact sheets on the programs, confirming that the United Nations has no control or jurisdiction over designated sites. Nonetheless, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 901, "The American Land Sovereignty Protection Act," claiming that participation in these U.N.-sponsored programs threatens American sovereignty and private property rights. H.R. 901 severely hinders the ability of the United States to exercise its leadership in the global conservation movement by restricting U.S. participation in these programs. The bill requires that any new World Heritage site be authorized by a specific act of Congress, ends U.S. participation in the Man and Biosphere program, and rescinds the existing 47 Biosphere Reserve designations unless each site is individually authorized by Congress before 2001.
Rep. Young's efforts to pass H.R. 901 were initially derailed when Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Bruce Vento (D-MN) coordinated an effort to have Members of Congress offer amendments to specifically protect Biosphere Reserves located in their districts. Rep. Young responded by getting the House leadership to drastically restrict debate on the bill and to limit the number and type of amendments that could be offered. As reported in the October 7 Congressional Record, he then portrayed the vote as a test of a Congressman's patriotism, at one point admonishing his colleagues that "if they do not support this bill, they are against the Constitution."
On October 8, 1997, the House passed H.R. 901, 236 - 191. NO is the pro-environment vote.