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.