WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Paul Tonko (NY-21), co-chairs of the Congressional National Heritage Area Caucus, today introduced H.R. 4099, a bipartisan bill to reform and modernize the nation’s National Heritage Areas (NHA). This legislation, the National Heritage Area Act of 2012, was drafted in cooperation with the Alliance for National Heritage Areas (ANHA) and with input from the National Park Service (NPS).
“Heritage areas not only preserve our vibrant culture and rich history, they spur economic growth in communities across the country,” said Rep. Dent. “Throughout my home state of Pennsylvania, these public-private-partnerships are recognized as significant contributors to local and regional economic development. Modernizing the heritage area system and enhancing its efficiency will help ensure the long-term viability of these important economic drivers.”
“The tool kit for economic recovery includes highlighting our nation’s rich heritage areas and strengthening our awareness to a sense of place,” said Rep. Tonko. “These items have proven to be persuasive tools in the very competitive sweepstakes for jobs.”
“The ANHA is extremely grateful to Congressmen Dent and Tonko for advancing the proposed legislation to improve the National Heritage Areas program,” said ANHA Chair and former Executive Director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, C. Allen Sachse. “NHAs are a proven model to save and share America’s heritage with minimum public investment. NHAs have been saving America’s significant stories and creating jobs in NHA towns since 1984. We’re looking forward to continuing this legacy within the framework of the new legislation.”
The National Heritage Area Program is one of the Department of the Interior’s most cost-effective initiatives, relying on a public-private partnership in which every federal dollar is matched with an average of $5.50 in other public and private funding. Heritage areas have a proven record of fostering job creation and advancing economic, cultural, historic, environmental, and community development. In addition to creating jobs, NHAs generate valuable revenue for local governments and sustain communities through revitalization and heritage tourism.
While the Heritage Area Program is already a model of the kind of efficiency needed in federal programs, cosponsors of H.R. 4099 believe it can be modernized to better ensure long-term sustainability and savings. This bipartisan legislation takes a new approach to heritage areas by establishing for the first time a standardized set of criteria across the board for the designation of new NHAs and the review of those previously authorized. Having a clearly defined structure to oversee the management of heritage areas will allow these popular public-private-partnerships to better preserve the nation’s heritage and spur economic growth with minimal federal support.
Similar proposals to reform and modernize the heritage area program had been recommended by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District is home to the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and includes the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area.