9:41 PM EDT

Paul Tonko, D-NY 21st

Mr. TONKO. Mr. Chair, I rise today to offer an amendment to H.R. 2584, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012. The amendment is bipartisan and is supported by the Congressional National Heritage Caucus and the 49 National Heritage Areas across our country.

The amendment is straightforward and modest. The amendment restores the National Heritage Area program within the National Park Service to the fiscal year 2010 funding levels. This amount is constant with the amount approved by Congress for the past several years. To pay for this increase, the amendment shifts $8,408,000 away from the Office of the National Parks Service account.

From Alaska to Florida, the National Heritage Areas are the most effective public-private partnerships for resource conservation and heritage tourism supported by the Federal Government. While each of the 49 National Heritage Areas currently in existence are authorized to receive $1 million in annual support through the Department of Interior, the National Heritage Area program has only been funded between $15 million and $18 million over the past 5 years by Congress, despite their success in

revitalizing communities and conserving naturally significant resources with only modest Federal support.

These public-private partnerships are perhaps the most cost-effective and efficient programs within the Department of Interior. Matching every dollar of Federal support with $5.50 of other public and private funding, National Heritage Areas are clearly a high-yield investment of Federal resources.

To be clear, that investment results in over $100 million of economic activity. During a time when our economy is so fragile, we must support these programs that have a proven record of economic benefit. National Heritage Areas have such a proven record of fostering job creation and advancing economic, cultural, historic, environmental, and community development. In addition to creating jobs, National Heritage Areas generate valuable revenue for local governments and sustain communities through

revitalization and heritage tourism.

More specifically, in my district, a recent study released last year by my local heritage area, the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor, found that visitors to heritage sites in the eastern part of the corridor--found that nearly 1 million people visit heritage sites each year, generating some $38 million sales in local businesses, supporting 507 local jobs.

We must preserve sites that are historically significant. Doing so will increase community spirit as well as generate much-needed tourism dollars. A recent United States Cultural and Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and United States Department of Commerce study revealed that cultural heritage travelers contribute more than $192 billion annually to our United States economy. I would point out also that this tool, this opportunity for heritage areas enables given regions to have a stronger sense

of marketing tools. They are able to promote a stronger sense of place and a much more dynamic bit of destination. That is a tool in the economic recovery toolkit that is tremendously valuable and important to these given host regions.

I want to thank Representative Dent of Pennsylvania for offering this amendment with me today. He is the cochair of the National Heritage Area Caucus in the House, and he and his staff have been a pleasure to work with on this amendment. I also need to thank the ranking member on the committee, Mr. Dicks, and our ranker of the subcommittee, Representative Moran. They have been invaluable in their support in my effort for this amendment.

Understanding today's difficult budgetary climate, I want to remind everyone that this amount is equal to the total appropriation for the program in the previous fiscal year and reflects the minimum level of support National Heritage Areas need to remain successful. I hope my colleagues will consider joining Mr. Dent and myself in supporting this modest funding level for a vitally important program.

Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.

9:46 PM EDT

Charlie Dent, R-PA 15th

Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I do rise in support of the Tonko amendment. Mr. Tonko and I have offered this amendment for consideration by the House. [Page: H5563]

We are the cochairs of the Heritage Corridor Caucus. I represent the areas of the Delaware-Lehigh Heritage Corridor as well as the Schuylkill Valley Corridor in eastern Pennsylvania, and we have seen a great deal of positive activity as a result of these heritage areas. Specifically, as Mr. Tonko

conveyed, a great deal of tourism activity, recreational opportunities, as well as economic development occurs as a result of this. Also, significant community development activities have been the result of our efforts and investment in these heritage areas.

Obviously money is very tight, and this program is taking about a 50 percent reduction under the underlying bill. The amendment before us will simply restore about $8.4 million to the heritage area, to the heritage partnership program; and we'll be taking that money, substituting it from the National Park Service, where we believe they have sufficient funds to operate.

I support the underlying legislation. I know Chairman Simpson has put a lot of effort into this. I think he has really done a great deal, given the numbers he has had to work with. So I do support the underlying bill. But I think that this amendment strikes a proper balance and preserves and protects these heritage areas that are making a real impact across the country.

I guess there are 49 of these heritage areas currently in existence, and most of them, I believe, are receiving under $1 million of support through the Interior Department. So I just think this is a program that is worthy of our support. We're just simply, in these tough economic times, trying to bring this program back to neutral. I know the administration did not, in their budget proposal, cut this program as well. But I think this might be one way this amendment could help us bring this program

back to a level that will be sufficient in supporting these heritage areas.

Again, as was stated by Mr. Tonko, these communities are benefiting. We are seeing so much tourist activity. We are seeing increased recreational opportunities. I know in my community, we are all of a sudden doing things on our rivers and discovering our rivers and the natural beauty of them that many of us had not really noticed before, and it's really as a result of this. Again, it brought the rivers back to life, economic life, community life, and it has become really, once again,

the center of our existence. And a lot of this would not have been possible but for the efforts of these heritage areas. So, again, I rise in support of the Tonko-Dent amendment and would urge the House to adopt this.

I yield back the balance of my time.

9:49 PM EDT

Jim Moran, D-VA 8th

Mr. MORAN. Mr. Chairman, I want our side to go on record in support of what Mr. Tonko and Mr. Dent are proposing. We have worked with them on this amendment.

This is the kind of program that really ought to have unanimous support in the House. I mean, we're talking about very small amounts of money that are distributed throughout the country; oftentimes $150,000; sometimes it gets up to $700,000. But they are relatively small amounts of money.

[Time: 21:50]

And what they do is to bring local community leaders together. Local communities love it and, of course, it draws tourism. It gets into the newspaper, oftentimes into metropolitan newspapers suggesting this is a terrific day trip for families to go on. They follow the Heritage Trail.

It has that kind of national recognition and credibility that only the Federal Government oftentimes can provide to a National Heritage Area, because many people claim it. But when the National Heritage Program identifies it as one of the true assets of our country and places that should be protected and preserved and explained to the public, then more people come. And it generates jobs; it generates economic activity.

Mr. Wolf just put in an authorization. He probably won't get the full amount of money that's authorized, but it will get some for the Civil War Battlefield Crossroads Trail, and that's drawing people up with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

All over the country. The Hudson River, there was a gentleman on the other side that opposed it when Mr. Hinchey put it in, had it designated. And then when he saw how successful it was, he said, Let's get my part of the Hudson River included.

This is a really good program. It was funded at about $17 million, 50 percent cut though. What are we doing? Talk about being penny-wise and pound-foolish, really. A 50 percent cut in it. It hurts the economies of any number of areas around the country.

So we think that this is a very reasonable amendment, and we congratulate the caucus for coming forward and suggesting that the money be restored, and we hope that it will be.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

9:54 PM EDT

Anna G. Eshoo, D-CA 14th

Ms. ESHOO. Madam Chair, I demand a recorded vote.

The CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from California will be postponed.


The CHAIR. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 4 printed in House Report 112-181.