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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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S. 2267 - National Parks Bills




STATEMENT OF HERBERT FROST, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCES STEWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2267, A BILL TO REAUTHORIZE THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA.

June 27, 2012

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2267, a bill to reauthorize the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area (NHA).

The Department recognizes the important work of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area to preserve heritage resources in Hudson River Valley between Yonkers and Troy, New York.  We recommend that S. 2267 be amended to authorize an extension for heritage area program funding until we have completed an Evaluation and Report on the accomplishments of the area and the future role of the National Park Service; and until heritage area program legislation is enacted that standardizes timeframes and funding for designated national heritage areas.  Consistent with congressional directives in the FY 2009 and FY 2010 Interior Appropriations Acts, the Administration proposed in the FY 2013 Budget focusing most national heritage area grants on recently authorized areas and reducing and/or phasing out funds to well-established recipients to encourage self-sufficiency.  The Department would like to work with Congress to determine the future federal role when heritage areas reach the end of their authorized eligibility for heritage program funding.  We recommend that Congress enact national heritage legislation during this Congress.

There are currently 49 designated national heritage areas, yet there is no authority in law that guides the designation and administration of these areas.  Program legislation would provide a much-needed framework for evaluating proposed national heritage areas, offering guidelines for successful planning and management, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all parties, and standardizing timeframes and funding for designated areas.

S. 2267, as introduced, would extend the authorization of federal funding for Hudson River Valley for an additional 10 years.

The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area was established in 1996 by Public Law 104-333.  The heritage area includes 250 communities in ten counties bordering the Hudson River for 154 miles of tidal estuary.  This includes three million acres of the Hudson Highlands, the Catskill Mountains, rolling farmland and compact villages, as well as small cities and hamlets. The region extends from the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, south to the northern border of New York City.

 

The mission of this national heritage area is to recognize, preserve and promote the natural and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley. This is accomplished through a voluntary partnership with communities and citizens, and local, state and federal agencies emphasizing public access, economic development, regional planning and interpretive programs.

Public Law 104-333 designated the Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council and the Greenway Heritage Conservancy, Inc. as the local coordinating entities for the NHA.  The heritage area management entities facilitate public private partnerships for the preservation of heritage resources and work closely with National Park Service (NPS) staff at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites.  The heritage area’s work focuses on regional initiatives for heritage programming, interpretation, and education, preservation and resource stewardship, heritage development and infrastructure, and planning and design.

During its 15 years of existence, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area has a significant record of achievement.  It has taken the lead on initiatives such as Heritage Weekend which gives visitors the opportunity to discover – or rediscover—many historic, architectural and natural treasures in the state.  The heritage area staff has worked tirelessly to connect sites and schools together to create place-based curriculum that can be replicated and used by others through a website that provides academic resources regarding the heritage and culture of the Hudson River Valley.  The staff has facilitated the creation of region-wide “shows” focusing on the NHA’s nature and culture sub-themes, printed map and guides, and advanced a graphic identity at partner sites.  They continue to help communities and trail groups establish a system of trails that link cultural and historic sites, parks, open spaces, and community centers as well as providing public access to the Hudson River.

We recommend a technical amendment to the long title of the bill to make it clear that the bill would extend the authorization for Federal funding for the heritage area instead of reauthorizing the heritage area.  While the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area faces a sunset for its Federal funding, its National Heritage Area designation will not sunset.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the committee may have.