Tonko Heralds Passage of National Heritage Area Act
Tonko’s bill replaces current patchwork system with stable, transparent processes to better support locally run heritage sites
Washington, December 22, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Paul D. Tonko today cheered the passage of his bipartisan National Heritage Area Act in the House of Representatives. Tonko’s bipartisan legislation, which he introduced alongside Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), tackles the current patchwork system for maintaining National Heritage Areas by reauthorizing all Areas for the next 15 years and establishing clear, transparent standards that make it easier for communities and local partnerships to develop and maintain the Heritage Areas they cherish.
The bill passed the Senate earlier this week and will be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Our heritage areas help preserve and protect sites of cultural, historical, and natural significance, shining a light on local communities across the country,” Congressman Tonko said. “These sites also serve as key economic drivers for their regions, attracting tourism and economic activity that pays dividends. But despite their importance to the fabric of our communities, there is no standardized process for administering National Heritage Areas, which has resulted in inconsistent oversight and hindered many areas from flourishing. My National Heritage Area Act secures a stable foundation of federal support for these partnerships, streamlines bureaucracy, and puts the sites themselves on the strongest possible footing for the future. After years partnering with my friend Congressman David McKinley to deliver for these cherished sites, I’m humbled to lead my colleagues in sending this bill to President Biden’s desk. I am grateful to the stakeholders and dedicated advocates who have been with us every step of the way to ensure Americans across our nation can enjoy these treasured sites for many years to come.”
“National Heritage Areas help preserve our history, increase tourism, and spur economic development and job growth. We’ve seen this firsthand in West Virginia with the creation of the Wheeling and Appalachian Forest Heritage Areas. The National Heritage Area Act will create standard criteria and rules for the creation and management of these public-private partnerships. I’m proud to lead this bill and have worked to support the mission of National Heritage Areas during my time in Congress,” said Rep. David McKinley (R-WV).
“Congressman Tonko is an enduring champion of heritage-based revitalization strategies in communities across New York State and the nation. Through his steadfast leadership, national heritage areas will be assured of consistent federal support while they simultaneously leverage investments from their respective states, local municipalities and the private sector, resulting in an improved quality of life for residents and increased economic benefits from recreational and cultural tourism,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
“National Heritage Areas, like ours in the Hudson Valley, are not only vital to this nation’s economy but are critical to the true telling of America’s story through the preservation of its historic and cultural sites. We are grateful to all of those in Congress who supported this act, especially our Hudson Valley delegation led by Congressman Tonko,” said Meg Downey, co-chair, Maurice D. Hinchey Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.
“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,” said Sara Capen, Chairwoman, Alliance of National Heritage Areas.
“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 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,” said Alan Spears, Senior Director for Cultural Resources for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
Heritage areas are a major contributor to American cultural tourism, which the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates contributes more than $192 billion to the U.S. economy every year. There are currently 55 National Heritage Areas nationwide, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Maurice D. Hinchey Hudson River Valley National Heritage Corridor in our Capital Region. Without congressional action, 45 Heritage Areas would sunset in the next two years.
· Provides our nation’s 55 Areas with certainty and predictability by extending their authorization for 15 years
· Establishes a streamlined process for the foundation, designation, and management of new National Heritage Areas
· Designates several new Heritage Areas and authorizes new Heritage Area studies
Congressman Tonko has long been a champion for National Heritage Areas. He co-chairs the National Heritage Area Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives along with Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and serves on the Committee on Natural Resources and its Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.