On Friday, December 12, 2014, the US Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Notwithstanding the bill’s title, the legislation also includes provisions beneficial to the National Park Service including the National Heritage Areas. Four new national parks were designated, seven new national park studies were authorized, and fourteen National Heritage Areas, including Essex Heritage, were reauthorized making them eligible to continue to receive federal funding.

Annie Harris, Essex Heritage CEO stated, “We are very grateful to our terrific Massachusetts delegation — Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, Congressman John Tierney and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas — for all their hard work to ensure that Essex Heritage was included. This bill will provide some needed consistency and confidence for many National Heritage Areas.” 

Harris noted, “It is extremely difficult to get any legislation passed these days. This is the first National Park legislation to be enacted since 2009. Our senators and representatives did a wonderful job because not every National Heritage Area was included. They really understand the economic as well as social benefits that this region derives from having a National Heritage Area.”

Alliance of National Heritage Areas reacts to passage of National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

The Alliance of National Heritage Areas applauds the action of Congress to protect and support the work of National Heritage Areas (NHAs) across the nation. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included language reauthorizing 14 National Heritage Areas. Allen Sachse, ANHA Chair stated, “We are very grateful, as this bill will provide some much needed stability and security for many National Heritage Areas.” 

Sachse added, “While the action is essential to carry on the work of these longstanding NHA partnerships, the ANHA believes the real solution is the passage of National Heritage Areas program legislation, which will strengthen the NPS partnership and support, as well as provide standards for designation, planning, and evaluation of all NHAs. The ANHA will continue to work in that direction.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first NHA designated by Congress. NHAs are places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally-important landscape. Through the collective resources of partners, NHAs tell significant stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage. NHAs are lived-in landscapes. NHAs are managed by local entities working in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), the states, and local agencies, balancing the protection of resources and enhancement of local economies. The work of NHAs supports more than 148,000 jobs nationwide. 

NHAs are a proven model of how sharing responsibility can be a very cost-effective approach for the NPS to preserve and tell the many significant stories of America. The NHAs stride to increase the capacity of local agencies as well as to improve the quality of service provided by local partners. NHAs have leveraged additional funds beyond NPS funding at a ratio of 4-to-1 to support the enhancement and management of the key resources.