in Natural Resources Policy
than 25 years, Congress has established 49 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 burdensome, costly, or leading to federal control over
nonfederal lands. This report focuses on heritage areas designated by Congress
(not other entities) and related issues and legislation.
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.
NHAs might receive funding from a wide variety of sources. Congress typically
determines federal funding for NHAs in annual appropriations laws for
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. NHAs can use federal funds
for many purposes, including staffing, planning, and projects. The FY2012
appropriation for the NPS for assistance to heritage areas was $17.4 million.
The Obama Administration is seeking $9.3 million for FY2013.
The Obama Administration has expressed interest in having NHAs become
financially selfsufficient, and some appropriators and other Members have
emphasized self-sufficiency for these areas as well. One role of the NPS
is to evaluate heritage areas at least three years before the expiration
of the authorization for federal funds. The NPS is currently focused on
evaluating nine NHAs designated in 1996, and anticipates completing these
evaluations in August 2012.
Each Congress typically considers bills to establish new heritage areas, to
study areas for possible heritage designation, or to amend existing
heritage areas. In the 112th Congress, several such bills are pending.
Other 112th Congress bills would ban federal funding for heritage areas.
Further, the sizeable number of existing NHAs and proposals in recent years to
study and designate new ones has fostered legislation to establish a
system of NHAs, and to provide criteria for their designation, standards
for their management, and limits on federal funding support. In the 112th Congress,
one such measure (H.R. 4099) has been introduced. The Obama Administration
has supported such systemic NHA legislation. 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.
In the 111th Congress, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L.
111-11) included provisions to create nine new NHAs, to reauthorize one
existing area, to study two areas for possible heritage designation, and
to amend four existing heritage areas.
Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny
Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American
Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card.
Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred
and receive priority processing.