NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands ahead of a hearing scheduled for April 30, 2019.
NPCA strongly supports H.R. 1049 – National Heritage Area Act, which would establish a system of national heritage areas (NHAs). National heritage areas, designated by Congress, are nationally significant landscapes that preserve American culture and history. These 55 diverse sites, in 34 states, include landscapes, museums, battlefields, historic buildings and other resources that are maintained through innovative public-private partnerships between businesses, citizen groups, municipalities and other stakeholders interested in promoting an area’s unique character.
The National Park Service provides each NHA with technical assistance and a modest amount of federal funding that must be matched dollar for dollar with non-federal funds. Across the board, heritage areas exceed this minimum requirement, raising an average of $5.50 in private, state or local money for every federal dollar they receive. Heritage areas then return these resources to the communities they serve in the form of grants to partnership organizations that use the funding to protect and promote regionally distinct and nationally significant resources.
The diversity of the NHA system is remarkable. NPCA has had the great fortune of working with dozens—from the eastern shores to middle America. For example, on the coasts of southern North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and a portion of Florida, the Gullah Geechee National Heritage Corridor promotes the folkways of the Gullah people whose language and customs are closely tied to their West African heritage. Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area in Iowa commemorates the agricultural heritage of the American heartland. While Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area in Arizona has worked effectively with the City of Yuma, the Quechan Indian Tribe and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to restore wetlands and recover endangered species like the Yuma Clapper Rail.
The unique role of NHAs as sites managed by local coordinating entities, but cooperative with the National Park Service, means they have more flexibility in the way they perform their resource protection mission. These areas generate heritage tourism in communities where every extra dollar captured by local business counts, and they provide technical and financial assistance to partners in areas where few other such opportunities exist. NHAs are community-driven, community-supported enterprises that have been operating successfully since 1984, when the first heritage area, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, was designated during the Reagan presidency. National Heritage Areas do not impact the rights of private property owners.
By creating a system of NHAs, H.R. 1049 would bring much-needed uniformity to the way NHAs are designated, managed and assessed, and provide Congress with an enhanced ability to conduct oversight of the program.
Additionally, NPCA supports H.R. 642 – Oil Region National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act, H.R. 1990 – National Aviation Heritage Area Reauthorization Act, and H.R. 2289 – Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Reauthorization Act. NPCA supports reauthorizing existing NHAs to ensure these locally managed, economically valuable preservation initiatives are maintained.
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Director of Cultural Resources, Government Affairs