Press Release Dec 22, 2022

Congress Takes Bold, Bipartisan Step in Protecting America’s Heritage and History

National heritage areas help tell the full range of American stories. This new law will create a formal system for national heritage areas and designate seven new ones to help communities protect priceless, diverse American history across the country. 

WASHINGTON – Today, members of Congress crossed the aisle to prioritize and pass the National Heritage Area Act, creating a formal system for America’s national heritage areas and designating seven new ones to help communities protect priceless, diverse American history across the country.

NPCA, leaders in Congress, and park advocates have worked tirelessly for years to protect and enhance national heritage areas, calling for much-needed uniformity to the way our national heritage areas are managed and assessed. Today’s bill passage is a victory for our efforts to save and interpret American history.

“Across the country, communities are working to protect patches of America’s diverse history from being altered or lost forever. In the nick of time, Congress came together in a bipartisan fashion to give these communities the leg up they deserve. Establishing a new system for National Heritage Areas, including the brand-new Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, will help breathe new life into the historic preservation movement in America.” Said Alan Spears, Senior Director for Cultural Resources for National Parks Conservation.

“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.“ Spears continued.

National heritage areas are the epitome of effective public private partnerships. They provide technical assistance and grants from the National Park Service to local partners who establish and maintain historic, cultural, natural, and recreational resources that celebrate the common touchstones of our shared experiences and promote a very strong pride of place in communities across this nation.

This is one of the National Park Service’s most cost-effective programs. Designated by Congress, national heritage areas receive a modest amount of federal funding and technical assistance. National heritage areas must match their federal funding dollar for dollar with non-federal sources. 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.

The National Heritage Area Act, championed in Congress by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Representative David McKinley (R-WV-1), establishes a National Heritage Area System through which the Department of the Interior may furnish technical and financial assistance to local coordinating entities to support the establishment, development, and continuity of the National Heritage Areas.

This new law establishes the following new national heritage areas: • Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area (AL)

• Black Metropolis National Heritage Area (IL)

• Downeast Maine National Heritage Area (ME)

• Northern Neck National Heritage Area (VA)

• St. Croix National Heritage Area (USVI)

• Southern Campaign of the American Revolution National Heritage Area (SC)

• Southern Maryland National Heritage Area (MD)

This new law also directs the National Park Service to study the following locations for potential National Heritage Area designations in the future:

• Kaena Point (HI)

• Great Dismal Swamp (VA and NC)

• Guam

National heritage areas help tell the full range of American stories, from the new Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, which will explore discrimination and Civil Rights Movement voter drives, to Motor City National Heritage Area which showcases the factory where Henry Ford built the first Model T.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org

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