Policy Update Oct 5, 2021

NPCA position on S. 511, S. 1284/H.R. 2497, S. 1643, S. 1942, and S. 2490

NPCA shared the following positions ahead of a legislative hearing held by the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks scheduled for October 6th, 2021.

S. 511 – To establish the Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area in the State of Illinois, and for other purposes: The Bronzeville section of Chicago, also known as the Black Metropolis, was formed by the migration of African Americans from the south to Illinois in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission has worked steadfastly since 2004 to win designation of this NHA working with the National Park Service to draft and complete a feasibility study and with community partners to create buy-in for the proposed NHA. The feasibility study found that the African Americans of Bronzeville-Black Metropolis created a mecca for African American business, culture, arts, education and politics, that influenced other black communities across the United States and, indeed, helped to shape the entire country. NPCA supports passage of this bill.

S. 1284/ H.R. 2497 – To establish the Amache National Historic Site in the State of Colorado as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes: NPCA supports this legislation, which would establish the Amache National Historic Site. This bill presents the unique opportunity to share and learn from a time in American history that has largely been forgotten: the unconstitutional imprisonment of 7,567 Japanese Americans at the Granada Relocation Center, or Amache, in Southeast Colorado. The designation of this site is the first step toward a telling a more inclusive history of America and honoring the heroic survivors and descendants within the Amache community and intersects with the story of Heart Mountain in Wyoming, Fort Missoula in Montana, and other sites that unjustly incarcerated our fellow American citizens during World War II. Preserving and interpreting Amache, as a National Historic Site, for present and future generations will help the public better understand the unique stories of Japanese Americans at Amache who served our nation in the Armed Forces; worked with farmers to support local agriculture; and built religious institutions and businesses at the site. The longstanding and heroic efforts of Amache survivors, descendants, and other community leaders nationwide to share this story are the reason why it remains alive today. While the story of Amache is first and foremost the story of its survivors and descendants to tell, it is also the story of the courage of the rural, agricultural community surrounding the site to keep this flame alive. Considering the current scourge of anti-Asian American Pacific Islander hate crimes, our country needs places like this more than ever to ensure that these lessons of the past are learned and remembered.

S. 1643 – To establish the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, and for other purposes: NPCA supports this legislation, which will aid a diverse array of state and local partners in protecting and interpreting the historic, cultural, and natural resources in one of the nation’s most biologically diverse and culturally rich regions in the United States. More than ten years in the making, the Black Belt National Heritage Area enjoys broad public support and is being sustained by a powerful array of stakeholders. From the Red Stick wars to the American Civil War to the battle for voting rights in Bloody Lowndes County, Alabama’s Black Belt has witnessed some of the most important events in this nation’s history. The designation of this new heritage area is long overdue.

S. 1942 – To standardize the designation of National Heritage Areas, and for other purposes: NPCA strongly supports the National Heritage Area Act, which will establish a “system” of National Heritage Areas – no such entity currently exists – and provide more uniformity to the way in which heritage areas are designated, managed, and assessed. The bill also calls for the elimination of Federal funding sunsets that complicate the ability of National Heritage Areas to conduct their day-to-day business.

S. 2490 – To establish the Black School National Historic Site in Marfa, Texas, and for other purposes: NPCA supports this legislation, which would designate the Blackwell School site in Marfa, Texas as a National Historic Site. This site commemorates the pride and resiliency of the Mexican American heritage of the region, as well as uncovers the painful past of educational segregation in our country. The Blackwell School site represents the social constructs of American society along the southern US border during each decade of its operation, and despite the ubiquity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries of schools like Blackwell, it is one of only a few remaining structures. This facility remains in good condition, with an active local coalition supporting its preservation with a desire to connect this story to the bigger, ongoing national conversation around identity, power and what it means to be an American.

In addition to the specific bills listed here, NPCA also strongly supports the extension of the eligibility for all National Heritage Areas to receive Federal funding and for the restoration for any NHAs whose funding authorizations have already expired. National Heritage Areas protect resources and interpret histories that are both regionally distinct and nationally significant. The federal funding National Heritage Areas receive, on average, leverages into a five to one return on investment with the additional money raised going to support community development, heritage tourism initiatives, as well as recreation, learning, and service opportunities organized by the NHA or its partners. Unlike funds awarded by other sources, the Federal dollars received by NHAs may be used to cover operational expenses that are mission critical to keeping individual NHAs open for business. The loss of Federal funding removes the public from the highly effective and impactful concept of public-private partnerships, which has successfully governed the heritage area model since the program’s inception in 1984.