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Image courtesy of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
Image courtesy of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Higgins announces passage of legislation supporting local National Heritage Area programs

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Fri, Dec 4th 2020 11:10 am

Niagara Falls National Heritage Area & Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor each to receive $750,000 annually

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced passage of H.R. 1049, the National Heritage Area Act of 2020. The bill, cosponsored by Higgins, creates the National Heritage Area System to conserve, enhance and interpret natural, historic, scenic and cultural resources that tell nationally significant stories. Existing National Heritage Areas, including the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, would automatically be included in the system. The bill authorizes $750,000 per year for each National Heritage Area through fiscal year 2034.

“National Heritage Areas deliver a significant return on the federal investment. We’ve seen the amazing benefits that our National Heritage Areas can deliver to communities right here in Western New York with our local Niagara Falls National Heritage Area and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. We are proud to continue federal support of these programs, ensuring present and future generations can appreciate and learn from the lessons these areas promote and provide,” Higgins said.

There are currently 55 National Heritage Areas across the country. Each established by separate acts of Congress, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in 2000 and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area in 2008. The National Heritage Area Act creates a clear and transparent system to support and evaluate National Heritage Areas and a uniform method to assess new National Heritage Areas.

Sara Capen, chairwoman for the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, said, "The National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 1049) is vital to ensuring that critical economic development, historic preservation, heritage based tourism and long-term local investment continues in communities across America. On behalf of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, we are grateful to the more than 220 co-sponsors of this bill, including Congressman Higgins, and urge the Senate to enact legislation by passing the companion bill S. 3217."

Higgins, a long-time supporter of National Heritage Areas including the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, joined efforts to waive the requirement for local matching funds “so these entities can continue to operate during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with the ability to provide the community with much-needed services, continue distributing cultural and educational resources, and operate areas for socially distant recreation without additional financial strain.”

Every federal dollar invested in a National Heritage Area generates, on average, $5.50 for the local economy. A 2016 report estimated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has a $307.7 million economic impact across the 23 counties it covers. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area promotes economic opportunity and tourism in the Greater Niagara Region, with several successful projects including the Discover Niagara Shuttle, visitor app, Niagara Falls mural project and the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. For more information on Western New York’s National Heritage areas, visit www.eriecanalway.org and www.discoverniagara.org.

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