December 13, 2022
|The Honorable Charles Schumer
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
|The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader McCarthy,
I am writing on behalf of over 2,300 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition), a non-profit organization composed of retired, former, or current employees and volunteers of the National Park Service (NPS). The Coalition studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation of America’s National Park System. As a group, we collectively represent over 45,000 years of experience managing and protecting America’s most precious and important natural and historic resources. Among our members are former NPS directors, regional directors, superintendents, resource specialists, rangers, maintenance and administrative staff, and a full array of other former employees, volunteers, and supporters.
I am writing to you today to request that you include the National Heritage Act, S. 1942, in any year-end omnibus package.
For more than two decades, the National Park Service has administered the National Heritage Area program under its mission to preserve nationally significant natural and historic resources. Successful national heritage areas represent local and regionally driven partnerships that bring together cultural and natural resource preservation, recreation, education, community building, and economic development opportunities.
Despite a significant impact on the communities they serve, the National Heritage Area program continues to operate without an authorizing framework and under a random system of funding caps and two-year reauthorizations. Congressional authorizations for 35 national heritage areas are set expire in 2023, with 10 more following in March 2024.
The National Heritage Area Act, S. 1942, sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), would establish common sunset dates for 55 National Heritage Areas in 34 states by extending the authorization for 15 years. It would further establish the first- ever standardized criteria for designating new NHAs and strengthen accountability by creating an evaluation process for existing sites. In addition, it would designate new heritage areas in several regions around the country.
We thank you for your leadership on issues important to the National Park Service and its allied programs. We urge you to work to include the National Heritage Area Act, S. 1942, into any year-end omnibus package.
Michael B. Murray, Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks