U.S. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, M.D. (NY-19), a member of the Congressional National Heritage Area Caucus, has cosponsored H.R. 4099, the National Heritage Area Act of 2012, a bipartisan bill to reform and modernize the nation's National Heritage Areas (NHA). This legislation was drafted in cooperation with the Alliance for National Heritage Areas (ANHA) and with input from the National Park Service (NPS).
"Our Hudson Valley is blessed with a magnificent river, glorious scenery, historic treasures, beautiful parks and wildlife areas that we have taken care to preserve," said Hayworth. "In my role as a federal legislator I've sought to honor the importance of protecting our environment while also facilitating the economic activity that supports all the good things we do. I'm delighted that the League of Conservation Voters gave me one of the highest scores for any Republican in their 2011 rankings. This follows the Sierra Club's recent recognition of my strong record in support of clean water."
The National Heritage Area Program is one of the Department of the Interior's most cost-effective initiatives, relying on a public-private partnership in which every federal dollar is matched with an average of $5.50 in other public and private funding. Heritage areas have a proven record of fostering job creation and advancing economic, cultural, historic, environmental, and community development. In addition to creating jobs, NHAs generate valuable revenue for local governments and sustain communities through revitalization and heritage tourism.
"At a time when our future depends on making government more efficient and effective," Hayworth stated, "innovative public-private partnerships like the National Heritage Area Act allow us to work together to do what's right for our communities, for our country, and for our environment. In 2012, I will continue to do all I can to protect our land, clear air, and clean water in the Hudson Valley in a time of great economic challenge and fiscal austerity."
While the Heritage Area Program is already a model of the kind of efficiency needed in federal programs, cosponsors of H.R. 4099 believe it can be modernized to better ensure long-term sustainability and savings. 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 proposals to reform and modernize the program had been recommended by both the Bush and Obama administrations.