An alert reader sent me a link to this post at about the history of U.S. participation in the UNESCO World Heritage Site program, which pays tribute to the world’s famous natural wonders. The post drags on a bit before it gets to the curious part: The same folks convinced the United Nations (you know, with its lean bureaucracy and ultra-competent management) is plotting to take over the world have bent the ears of national parks administrators over the years to make sure they don’t pay undue attention to this World Heritage Site outfit because they don’t want any foreigners having anything to do with how our parks are run (can’t imagine how they sleep nights with the U.S. owing trillions to China and Saudi Arabia).

Today, 20 of the 878 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in the U.S, and 12 of these are national parks, including Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Redwoods.

But from 1995 to 2005, studies show, far from promoting the World Heritage program, the U.S. was at best a reluctant participant. In a 2007 paper for Geoforum, Helen Hazen, a geographer at Macalester College, suggests that criticism from nationalistic, anti-U.N. fringe groups, however misled, caused the U.S. to back off, adopting a philosophy of “benign neglect” toward the very program it had once so enthusiastically pioneered.

In surveys and interviews at Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Hawaii Volcanoes national parks, Hazen discovered that most U.S. visitors, unlike foreign visitors, had no idea they were visiting a World Heritage site, and park officials were in no hurry to enlighten them.

One Yellowstone official told Hazen that even if the World Heritage status came with funding — which it does not, at least in the U.S. — it would be a mistake to accept the money.

Here’s a list of all the World Heritage Sites, which might best be summarized as “really cool tourist destinations all over the planet.” Of course if you visit them you’ll be enabling United Nations designs to send us all to concentration camps.