Bush Wants National Heritage Area Law
April 15, 2004
The Bush Administration is pressuring Congress to enact a law promoting the preservation of America's historic places.
President Bush set the National Heritage Area ball rolling when he signed Executive Order 13287 on March 3, 2003. The Order called for federal agencies to identify and categorize federal historic properties so the agencies can be prepared to provide leadership and financial assistance to communities wishing to preserve local cultural or national heritage assets.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Deputy Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Randy Jones explained that "National Heritage Areas must be guided and supported by local communities and the people who live in them."
He said the National Heritage Area program would involve partnerships "at every level of government." Carol LaGrasse, President of the Property Rights Foundation of America, presented a different view when she said; "My criticism has been and remains that the National Heritage Area program is meant to gradually accomplish federal land use control." "Heritage Areas are 'greenways' where the purpose is landscape preservation by land use regulation by government and its surrogates," she continued.
Gretchen Randall of Winningreen agreed stating that a General Accounting Office (GAO) map shows two heritage areas in Tennessee, the "Tennessee Civil War" and "Blue Ridge," encompassing the entire state and one-fourth of Iowa is a heritage area known as "Silos and Smokestacks."
There are currently 24 National Heritage Areas in 18 states, so why the need for this legislation?
U. S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Senate Dirksen 366
March 30, 2004
My criticism has been and remains that the National Heritage Area program is meant to gradually accomplish federal land use control. It is focused across especially the East and Midwest. The Heritage Area program also involves transferring private land to government. The state and federal governments already own over 42 percent of the land in the United States. In 1994, I publicized a list kept by the National Trust for Historic Preservation of over 100 state, federal, and regional Heritage Areas under development. The House Natural Resources Committee mapped that list, showing the shocking extent to the program already at that time. Direct national land use control is too unpopular to be enacted, as would be a unified national greenway program encompassing the full extent of the Heritage Areas and other federal areas being individually enacted.
In the New Jersey, there are eight federal covering almost half the state. Now in the Congress at various stages are six additional Heritage Areas and the like to cover virtually the entire rest of the state. (1)
The main selling points for Heritage Areas are tourism, economic development, historic preservation, and protection of riverways. The word "greenway" is not used. Yet, Heritage Areas are plainly greenways, areas where the purpose is landscape preservation by land use regulation and land acquisition by government and its surrogates.(2) A theme trail is associated with each greenway. The Heritage Area elements fulfill the goal of "landscape connectedness," a textbook purpose of greenways. A greenway needs an "ensemblage" of sites related to the theme, the ostensible reason for the overall geographic definition, without which the real goal of landscape preservation could not be accomplished. (3)
In each Heritage Area, multiple programs called partnerships in concert with other agencies at state, federal, regional, local, and especially multi-jurisdictional levels, along with various not-profits, focus on site development, land use planning, land acquisition, and trail development. The auspices of the Park Service is diffused, so that the public eye would have to be excruciatingly trained to follow the relationships and the flow of authority, instigation, and especially cash incentives. Local government is subverted and coopted, becoming a tool of the skilled Park Service, non-profit, and consultant manipulators. At each Heritage Area, at least one not-profit agency (4) is created under the tutelage of the Park Service to perhaps be the "management entity" and focus the accomplishment of the greenway or to develop its related trail while directing attention away from the Park Service. New non-profits are instigated for various trails and other purposes, quite surreptitiously. These and consultants are outside of freedom of information law.
Initial studies are geared to landscape preservation, often under the rubric of historical preservation. Lavish funds are provided for outreach to popularize the Heritage Areas. One Heritage Area meeting with about thirty people present, which I attended recently, was hosted by seven Park Service personnel and consultants. (5)
Sites are developed for tourism and historical preservation. Congress may prohibit funding under the Heritage Area law from being used for land acquisition, but this is immaterial, because the Park Service has built relationships with multiple federal and state agencies for this.
A Heritage Area can put a new National Park on the agenda. One is the proposed Homestead National Park advocated by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. (6)
Trails, which are a serious threat to private property today, are an important facet of Heritage Areas, for connectivity. (7) They are developed in segments, according to the textbook design for success. Eminent domain may not be directly exercised by the Park Service, but is threatened or exercised by the localities for the segments of a trail, each often separated from another segment so that the common threat is unrecognized. (8)
An irony of trails being advocated by environmentalists in species-rich riparian areas is that they serve as an avenue for invasives such as cowbirds that replace eggs of neotropical migrant songbirds and weeds that replace native plants.
Mature planning studies are instigated, in connection with funding for site improvements and in connection with the management plan. (9) These facilitate strict land use controls, an issue left hanging by the GAO report released today. (10)
Prohibiting the National Park Service from imposing zoning is irrelevant because the Park Service does not do this directly, but rather instigates the imposition of land use controls. (11)
Legislation of an opt-in provision with notification is feasible to protect property owners, considering that tax notices are routinely sent to all owners. But with both this provision and the old opt-out rule, the boundary of the Heritage Area would still exist. The land would be located in the greenway and bear the brunt of the landscape preservation, trail development, and economic design to eliminate non-compatible uses and gear the area toward tourism and nature. Land prices and the tax burden gradually increase. Ordinary people cannot survive there.
Congress should enact changes geared to eliminate the greenway potential of the Heritage program.
Eliminate geographic delineation. The Heritage program could be directed to block grants of moneys allocated state-by-state through an agency that is not geared to landscape preservation, such as Housing and Urban Development.
Prohibit all the partnerships. Prohibit the Park Service from promotional work for its policies at the local level, and from studies of historical or regional areas. Prohibit the Park Service from working with non-profit agencies.
Park Service personnel should be prohibited from participating in the studies and development of trails, or developing support organizations. All trails should be publicly laid out in their full length, width and other ramifications from the proposal stage, and all property owners notified. Trail development could be administered by the Department of Transportation and the eminent domain protections under the federal highway laws applied.
No additional Heritage Areas should be established and no further development of trails should take place until a full inventory of lands owned by the federal and state government, and of federal areas such as National Heritage Areas and trails, is completed.
The National Heritage Area program is not just pork-barrel. It certainly is not economic development. It is federal land use control, and should be drastically curtailed.
Notes (Rev. Apr. 7. 2004):
See PRFA web site for two color coded diagrams of New Jersey at:
"As I have said, regional greenways networks will not themselves clean up the mess," Little writes. "But the idea of establishing such an infrastructure might very well give us a new and less controversial approach to regional planning by providing a geophysical framework for it, which, unlike that of highways and high-tension lines, is the framework of the landscape itself." (Little, Greenways for America, John Hopkins, 1990, pp. 135,136, italics in original)
The bill for the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage
Area focuses on regulation of the landscape. In the "findings,"
the bill declares, "Congress finds that...portions of the landscapes
important to the strategies of the British and Continental armies,
including waterways, mountains, farms, wetlands, villages, and roadways...retain
the integrity of the period of the American Revolution; and...offer
outstanding opportunities for conservation, education, and recreation."
"At some point, a sufficient level of concern is reached along with a growing consensus that voluntary, non-regulatory measures are themselves insufficient to ensure that environmental, cultural and historic resources are adequately protected against indiscriminate and inappropriate development. One response has been to draft an intergovernmental cooperative agreement outlining responsibilities of each party to guarantee consistency and coordination in future actions taken by participating municipal governments, and state and federal agencies."
(Land Use Management Plan for the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor, Center for Rural Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 1989, p. 56, emphasis added)
United States General Accounting office, "Testimony Before the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate - National
Park Service - A More Systematic Process for Establishing National
Heritage Areas and Actions to Improve Their Accountability Are Needed,"
Statement of Barry T. Hill, Director, Natural Resources and Environment.
As reported, the GAO confined its research to narrow interviews. The researchers failed to track down zoning enactments as a result of cooperative agreements, management plans, or partnerships; zoning and building permit applications, disputes, and litigation; trail disputes and condemnations; or shifts in land ownership.
This writer was one of those interviewed. Even after this interviewee explained that zoning and other impositions would have to be tracked down through local agencies, the interviewers aggressively asserted that they sought expressly information about direct infringements on private property rights [by heritage area commissions and heritage area law].
At the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on H.R. 2949 to establish the Augusta Canal National Heritage Corridor on June 28, 1994, Denis P. Galvin, Associate Director, Planning and Development, National Park Service, recommended that the bill to establish the Heritage Corridor "shall not take effect until the Secretary of the Interior approves the partnership compact for the heritage corridor that is now under development." He said that the bill should be amended to require "evidence of a commitment to modify zoning regulations...and evidence of commitment to create a State park."
Issue Alert from Winningreen A040104
National Heritage Areas equal national silliness
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