PDF _ RL33462 - Heritage Areas: Background, Proposals, and Current Issues
6-Feb-2009; Carol Hardy Vincent and David L. Whiteman; 17 p.

Update: Previous releases:
November 2, 2007
November 29, 2006
August 28, 2006
June 7, 2006


For FY2007, the President requested $7.4 million for the NPS for Heritage Partnership Programs, a 44% decrease from the $13.3 million appropriated for FY2006. The President also proposed combining the Heritage Partnership Program with the Preserve America and Save America’s Treasures programs to form the American Heritage and Preservation Partnership Program, under the Historic Preservation Fund. In the FY2007 Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 5386), the House approved $13.9 million for the NPS for national heritage areas. The House did not support combining funding for heritage areas within the Historic Preservation Fund.

Abstract: Over the past two decades, Congress has established 37 National Heritage Areas (NHAs) to commemorate, conserve, and promote areas that include important natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational resources. NHAs are partnerships among the National Park Service (NPS), states, and local communities, where the NPS supports state and local conservation through federal recognition, seed money, and technical assistance. NHAs are not part of the National Park System, where lands are federally owned and managed. Rather, lands within heritage areas typically remain in state, local, or private ownership or a combination thereof. Heritage areas have been supported as protecting lands and traditions and promoting tourism and community revitalization, but opposed as potentially costly and possibly leading to federal control over nonfederal lands. This report focuses on heritage areas designated by Congress, and related issues and legislation.

NHAs might receive funding from a wide variety of sources, and Congress and the NPS do not ordinarily expect to provide NHAs with permanent federal funding. Congress typically determines federal funding for NHAs in annual Interior appropriations laws. NHAs can use federal funds for many purposes, including staffing, planning, and projects. The FY2007 appropriation for the NPS for assistance to heritage areas was $13.3 million. For FY2008, the Administration requested a decrease to $10.0 million, while the House and the Senate Committee on Appropriations supported increases to $20.0 million and $15.0 million, respectively.

There is no comprehensive statute that establishes criteria for designating NHAs or provides standards for their funding and management. Rather, particulars for each area are provided in its enabling legislation. Congress designates a management entity, usually nonfederal, to coordinate the work of the partners. This entity typically develops and implements a plan for managing the NHA, in collaboration with other parties. Once approved by the Secretary of the Interior, the management plan becomes the blueprint for managing the area.

The 110 Congress is considering legislation to designate NHAs, study the suitability and feasibility of areas for heritage status, and amend existing heritage areas. Omnibus heritage area legislation is being considered by both chambers. On October 24, 2007, the House passed H.R. 1483, while on October 18, 2007, S. 2180 was placed on the Senate calendar. The bills would designate new NHAs, require area studies, increase the authorization of funding for several NHAs, and expand the boundaries or make other changes to several NHAs. Another bill on the Senate calendar, S. 817, would make changes to several NHAs and increase the authorization of funding for several areas. The sizeable number of existing NHAs and proposals to study and designate new ones has generated interest in enacting a law providing criteria for designating NHAs, standards for their management, and limits on federal funding support. Such legislation (S. 278 and S. 2180) is on the Senate calendar. Some opponents believe that NHAs present numerous problems and challenges and that Congress should oppose efforts to designate new areas and/or to create a system of NHAs.

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Topics: Public Lands, Federal Agencies, Information

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