S. 2543 - National Heritage Partnership Act - Heads to Full Senate - Property rights advocates argue against the bill
The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee last week approved S. 2543 the National Heritage Partnership Act. The measure was introduced by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) and had only one co-sponsor, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT).
Sen. Thomas said his "[B]ill reigns in the growth of this program by establishing clear guidelines, caps the amount of federal money an area can receive and specifically includes language that protects the rights of individual property owners."
The hearing on S. 2590, the Americans Outdoors Act, was held July 20.
Of the seven witnesses who testified, Nancy Marzulla of Defenders of Property Rights and Daniel Clifton, Americans for Tax Reform were solidly against the bill, arguing that it would put property rights in jeopardy and it is too costly.
Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary, Dept. of Interior told the Committee that "funding allocation decisions should be made through the appropriations process and not through new mandatory spending." No vote was taken.
Why do we need a National Heritage Act when we already have a National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. (See FR Notice at the end of this press release)
For Immediate Release
July 15, 2004
Thomas' National Heritage Bill Moves To Full Senate
WASHINGTON, DC—The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today approved a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.). The bill, The National Heritage Partnership Act, S. 2543, establishes restrictions and criteria for National Heritage Areas in the United States. Senator Thomas is chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over this issue.
“My bill reigns in the growth of this program by establishing clear guidelines, caps the amount of federal money an area can receive, and specifically includes language that protects the rights of individual property owners. The bill intends to uphold private property owner's rights, not degrade them,” Thomas said. “At the present time, there are no federal guidelines requiring what a heritage bill must contain. The current system is draining resources from other important programs.”
National Heritage Areas represent proposals initiated by local individuals to obtain Congressional recognition for their community. Often times this is done as a means to promote economic development and tourism. Designated areas qualify for federal funds to promote these sites.
Since 1984, 24 National Heritage Areas have been created. These areas range in scope from the National Oil Heritage Area which includes a small area in Pennsylvania to one that literally engulfs the entire state of Tennessee. Though they receive federal designation, none of the Heritage Areas establish any type of federal zoning or federal land management.
Each of the current Heritage Areas came are a result of an Act of Congress over the past two decades. In the last couple of years, the number of proposals in Congress has greatly increased—currently, more than 35 bills are pending to establish individual heritage areas or study the suitability and feasibility of areas for heritage status.
The Thomas bill establishes actual criteria for this program, explicitly provides for private property rights protections and creates some fiscal controls.
“This is certainly an important national parks policy issue, otherwise we would not have dedicated so much time conducting hearings, requesting a GAO report, drafting thoughtful guidelines and holding up a slew of bills in Congress,” Thomas added. “My effort is to stop the bleeding of federal money for a program that is getting out of control and has the potential to put a huge fiscal burden on the National Park Service. It’s also about a philosophical debate about making sure the Park Service is only involved in those issues that are truly nationally important, not just handing out checks to anyone that asks.”
As Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, Senator Thomas has conducted three hearings on this issue over the past two years. In the hearing today, Thomas added that with the onslaught of proposals, it could become a massive spending spree for local communities which he argued should not be footed by taxpayers when the nationally significant criteria of a site is sometimes questionable.
Senator Thomas’ bill would:
* Establish a National Heritage Area program within the National Park Service
* Establishes criteria for evaluating new heritage areas
* Prohibits use of Federal funds for acquisition of property in National Heritage Areas
* Contains specific language to protect private property rights
* Requires the annual reporting of fund allocation and expenditure by National Heritage Areas and provides for annual audits
* Caps the annual appropriation for National Heritage Areas at $15 million
The Thomas bill now heads to the floor of the Senate for further consideration.
Click here to view the bill.
AGENCY: Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has
DATES: These amendments are effective August 5, 2004.
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amendments, please call the Office of Federal Agency Programs at 202-
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The information that follows has been
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as
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