The photo below shows a group from the Northeast Region National Heritage Areas outside the dome of the U.S. Capitol, with the Washington Monument in the background. They are smiling because legislation was introduced this week in the House of Representatives to authorize the National Heritage Areas Program. H.R. 4099, a bi-partisan bill, was introduced by U.S Reps Charles W. Dent and Paul Tonko, co-chairs of the National Heritage Areas Congressional Caucus. This legislation, the National Heritage Area Act of 2012, was drafted in cooperation with the Alliance of National Heritage Areas with input from the NPS, and was cosponsored by 28 other Congressmen.
As quoted from the press release: “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 NHA program legislation has been introduced in past sessions of Congress and never signed. This bill has a broader range of Congressional sponsors, and support from NPS leadership. Passage of a National Heritage Area Program bill would provide a real boost to the NHA program, and ensure that the NPS relationship with heritage areas will remain in place long into the future.