Tori Martinez, Executive Director for the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) spent the week in Washington DC speaking with Senators and Congressmen to advocate for funding and legislation to support Colorado’s three National Heritage Areas.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is the farthest south in the state. South Park National Heritage Area is in Central Colorado and Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area is along the northern state line.

President Ronald Reagan and his administration wanted a cost-effective way to tell America’s stories and conserve the nation’s unique cultural, natural, and historic resources. In the last 30 years this has come to fruition by the creation of 49 National Heritage Areas (NHAs) throughout the country. These NHA’s have initiated and grown partnerships with local businesses, non-profit groups, and local governments.

The 49 National Heritage Areas have come together to form the Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA) together they’ve worked with the National Park Service and members of Congress to draft the National Heritage Area Act of 2017, H.R. 1002.

This bill accomplishes several things. It establishes a standardized set of criteria for new NHAs. It establishes a rigorous process for existing NHAs to ensure accountability. This bill modernized the program to ensure long-term sustainability. It clearly defines an oversight structure that will allow these popular public/private partnerships to better preserve the nation’s heritage and spur economic growth with minimal federal support while remaining consistent with recommendations of both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Due to delays in congress passing the 2018 budget, this year’s funding has yet to be released to the 49 National Heritage Areas. This has placed a hold on starting any new projects, programs, or releasing any grant funds to local partners. Colorado residents can assist the SdCNHA to continue heritage preservation work in the San Luis Valley by writing to your Congressman asking they sign on to support H.R. 1002. You can also write to your Colorado Senators asking they assist in the joint creation of a companion bill in the Senate. H.R. 1002 currently has 59 cosigners in the house and strong bipartisan support. This bill will stabilize federal funding essential to the SdCNHA and the other 48 National Heritage Areas.

National Heritage Areas help to preserve, protect and share significant parts of the nation’s histories and landscapes. They also support tens of thousands of jobs and contribute billions of dollars to local economies. NHAs are catalysts for economic development in the communities in which they are located. According to the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, “An independent 2012 study by Tripp Umbach found that NHAs’ overall annual economic impact in the U.S. is $12.9 billion, which significantly exceeds the amount of federal funding provided to NHAs by as much as 5:1. The economic impact is comprised of three main areas: tourism, operational expenditures and grantmaking activities; the majority of impact (99%) is generated by tourism spending.

The economic impact was significant in two ways:
$4.6 billion in direct impact, which includes tourist spending, NHA operational expenditures and grantmaking activities; $8.3 billion in indirect and induced impacts, which includes employee spending and businesses supporting the tourism industry.