CONGRESS ENACTS LANDMARK LEGISLATION TO ENSURE LONG TERM STABILITY FOR NATIONAL HERITAGE AREAS
On Thursday, December 22, 2022, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the National Heritage Area Act (S. 1942) on a bi-partisan vote of 326-95. This action followed the unusual vote of “unanimous consent” by the Senate requiring no objections from any of the 100 Senators.
This legislation was championed by Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-WV) in the House and Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI.) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the Senate.
The 55 National Heritage Areas around the country are cost-effective, grass roots organizations which promote economic development through historic preservation and natural resource conservation. The small annual investment of $29 million through the National Park Service yields an additional $5.50 of local, state and private funding for every federal dollar.
This legislation will replace a patchwork of individual authorizations with a program that creates clear criteria for designation and accountability, fiscal stability through a 15-year renewal of the program, and a commitment to protect private property rights. Reflecting the popularity of the concept, an additional seven National Heritage Areas were designated.
Sara Capen, who leads the Alliance of National Heritage Areas commented:
“The National Heritage Area Act is a testament to the tremendous work National Heritage Areas do within communities across America. It is a direct reflection of the determination and resilience that is not only the bedrock of National Heritage Areas, but also the history of the places and people National Heritage Areas represent. The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is profoundly grateful for the tireless leadership and support we have received on a bipartisan basis within Congress today and look forward to serving our communities for an additional 15 years.”
An unwavering advocate, Alan Spears, Senior Director for Cultural Resources for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) said:
“ Establishing a system for National Heritage Areas will help breathe new life into the historic preservation movement in America. Our history, complicated as it may be, serves as a rallying point for Americans of different backgrounds and ideologies. This piece of legislation exemplifies what our country can do when we stand together to protect our shared legacy.”
The legislation becomes law with the signature of President Biden.