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.