Interior Department Seeks Legislation for Establishing a
National Heritage Area Program
Office of the Secretary Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: March 30, 2004
WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced today
that the Bush administration is proposing legislation to promote and
enhance community and regional heritage conservation efforts and to
establish a National Heritage Area program.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
Subcommittee on National Parks, Deputy Director of the National Park
Service Randy Jones asked that Congress consider establishing criteria
for future proposed National Heritage Areas--a requirement that must
be met before the Secretary of the Interior recommends their creation.
"To be successful, National Heritage Areas must be guided and
supported by local communities and the people who live in them. These
areas also must work closely with all partners in the region, including
federal land-management agencies," Jones said. "This is
of particular importance in the West, where a National Heritage Area
boundary may encompass federal land designated for many uses."
Jones noted that the National Heritage Area strategy is about fostering
a partnership culture at every level of government, with each level
having appropriate and complementary roles. The National Park Service
should be the lead partner only when the resources within a proposed
heritage area are of national importance.
"To ensure a constructive partnership, our legislative proposal
requires the consultation and concurrence of federal land-management
agencies within the boundaries of a proposed National Heritage Area,"
Jones testified. "In addition to clarifying respective missions,
this process of consultation will help identify potential partnerships
as envisioned by the administration's recent Preserve America Executive
Order. Under this initiative, local communities and public land partners
will collaborate for the promotion of local economic development and
heritage tourism through the preservation and productive reuse of
According to a draft GAO report, no criteria have been adopted for
determining the significance or importance of National Heritage Area
proposals. The department's legislative proposal addresses this concern
by limiting involvement to regions that have a collection of resources
that together tell nationally important stories based on our country's
The proposed legislation presented to Congress today would require
a feasibility study be conducted for a proposed new National Heritage
Area to demonstrate that the area contains the important components
that tell a nationally important story.
Successful National Heritage Areas embody locally driven partnerships
that emphasize local control of land use and blend education, cultural
conservation, resource preservation, recreation and community revitalization.
Jones noted that at its best, the collaborative approach of the National
Heritage Area concept embodies Secretary Norton's "Four Cs"
- Communication, Consultation and Cooperation, all in the service
"Recent studies and our own experiences have shown that the National
Heritage Area approach links people and place, nature and culture,
and the present with the past. National heritage areas capitalize
on the unique role local communities play in caring for their heritage
and telling their stories, Jones said. "Our legislative proposal
respects these principles. It also recognizes the need to target our
assistance to those areas where there is a national interest and where
the local partners meet established criteria for success.
National Heritage Areas are intended to preserve nationally important
natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources by creating
local, state and federal partnerships. While the federal government
through the National Park Service provides technical and financial
assistance, National Heritage Areas are locally initiated and managed
areas that do not impose any new federal regulations or involve any
federal land acquisition.
There are currently 24 National Heritage Areas in 18 states. More
information on National Heritage Areas is available online at http://www.cr.nps.gov/heritageareas/