[Senate Report 109-26]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

                                                        Calendar No. 38
109th Congress                                                   Report
 1st Session                                                     109-26



                 March 9, 2005.--Ordered to be printed


   Mr. Domenici, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 243]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 243) to establish a program and criteria 
for National Heritage Areas in the United States, and for other 
purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon 
without amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.

                         PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE

    The purpose of S. 243 is to establish a program and 
criteria for National Heritage Areas in the United States.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    The National Park Service has defined a Natural Heritage 
Area as a ``place designated by the United States Congress 
where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources 
combine to form a cohesive nationally distinctive landscape 
arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.'' 
Heritage Areas are established to commemorate, conserve and 
promote important areas that include natural, scenic, historic, 
cultural or recreational resources. Unlike areas that are under 
the sole jurisdiction of the National Park Service, such as 
national parks or monuments, heritage areas typically remain in 
non-Federal ownership and are managed by local communities and 
partners. To date, Congress has designated 27 National Heritage 
    National Heritage Areas receive financial and technical 
assistance through cooperative agreements with the National 
Park Service. They also receive funds from other agencies and 
non-Federal sources. Most heritage areas are authorized to 
receive appropriations of up to $1 million each year, with a 
maximum total appropriation of $10 to $15 million. Generally, 
the authorizing legislation for each heritage area includes a 
requirement that Federal funds must be matched equally by non-
Federal funds. For fiscal years 1997 through 2002 National 
Heritage Areas received $310 million in funding. Of this total, 
approximately $154 million came from State and local 
governments and private sources and $156 million came from the 
Federal Government.
    Although the National Park Service has developed criteria 
for assessing whether an area may qualify as a National 
Heritage Area, there are currently no statutory criteria, no 
systematic process for identifying or evaluating potential 
heritage areas and no formal program for managing them. Of the 
27 existing heritage areas, ten have been designated by 
Congress without a thorough National Park Service review. Of 
those ten, six, a quarter of the existing heritage areas, were 
designated by Congress despite the agency's recommendation that 
designation be deferred. Not surprisingly, the opportunity for 
Federal funding has resulted in an increase in proposals for 
new heritage areas, with more than 30 heritage areas proposed 
during the 108th Congress. The sizable number of new proposals 
before Congress has raised some concern regarding the most 
effective means to manage the program in the future.
    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently 
published a report that examined heritage areas and suggested 
ways to improve their accountability (GAO04-593T, March 30, 
2004). The report recommends that standardized criteria be 
adopted for evaluating potential National Heritage Areas. The 
GAO report also suggests, given the magnitude of funds 
appropriated, that certain key management controls be 
instituted to ensure accountability and program consistency. S. 
243 will establish program requirements and criteria for 
evaluating potential National Heritage Areas, as well as place 
limitations on Federal funding for the program.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 243 was introduced by Senator Thomas on February 1, 
2005. During the 108th Congress, the Committee considered 
identical legislation, S. 2543. Senators Thomas and Burns 
introduced S. 2543 on June 17, 2004. The Senate Subcommittee on 
National Parks held a hearing on S. 2543 on June 21, 2004. The 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered S. 2543, as 
amended, favorably reported on July 14, 2004 (S. Rept. 108-
329). S. 2543 was passed by the Senate by unanimous consent on 
September 15, 2004. The bill was not considered by the House of 
    At its business meeting on February 9, 2005, the Committee 
on Energy and Natural Resources ordered S. 243 favorably 

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in an 
open business session on February 9, 2005, by a unanimous voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1(a) entitles this Act the ``National Heritage 
Partnership Act''.
    Subsection (b) contains the table of contents.
    Section 2 contains definitions of key terms used in the 
    Section 3 directs the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) 
to establish a National Heritage Area (NHA) program and to 
provide technical and financial assistance to local 
coordinating entities.
    Subsection (b) describes the duties of the Secretary under 
the program.
    Section 4(a) describes the criteria to be used by the 
Secretary to determine the feasibility and suitability of a 
proposed NHA. This section also describes the administrative 
process for the transmittal, approval and disapproval of the 
feasibility study. Designation of NHA's shall be contingent 
upon the completion of the feasibility study and approval of 
that study by the Secretary.
    Section 5 describes the requirements for a heritage area's 
management plan. This section also includes procedural 
requirements for the submission, approval, disapproval and 
amendment of the plan.
    Section 6 describes the duties and responsibilities of the 
local coordinating entity for a heritage area. This section 
also describes the purposes under which the coordinating entity 
is authorized to expend Federal funds and prohibits the entity 
from using Federal funds to acquire real property.
    Section 7 states that nothing in this Act affects the 
authority of a Federal agency to provide technical or financial 
assistance to a NHA. Other Federal agencies are encouraged to 
consult with the Secretary on issues concerning the NHA to the 
extent practicable. Nothing in this Act limits, modifies, 
alters or amends any authorized use of Federal land.
    Section 8 contains several savings provisions.
    Paragraph (1) states that nothing in this Act shall affect 
the rights of any private property owner.
    Paragraph (2) states that nothing in this Act requires a 
private property owner to permit public access.
    Paragraph (3) states that nothing in this Act affects any 
existing land use regulation or alters any land use or provides 
regulatory authority to the coordinating entity.
    Paragraph (4) states that nothing in this Act authorizes or 
implies the reservation or appropriation of water, or water 
    Paragraph (5) provides that nothing in this Act diminishes 
the authority of a State to manage fish and wildlife.
    Paragraph (6) states that nothing in this Act shall affect 
the liability of any private property owner.
    Section 9(a) authorizes the appropriation of $750,000, for 
each fiscal year, to conduct and review feasibility studies for 
potential heritage areas. Not more than $250,000 is authorized 
for any individual study for any given fiscal year.
    Subsection (b) authorizes and limits annual appropriations 
for heritage areas to $15,000,000 with not more than $1,000,000 
annually for any individual heritage area. A total 
appropriation of $10,000,000 may be made for an individual 
heritage area over all fiscal years. The Secretary's authority 
to provide technical and financial assistance to each heritage 
area is limited to 15 years, but the area is authorized to 
retain the designation of National Heritage Area after Federal 
funding has terminated. The Secretary may extend up to five 
percent of the annual authorized appropriation of $15,000,000 
for the purposes of technical assistance and oversight and 
administration of the program.
    Subsection (c) requires the recipient of any grant made 
under this Act to provide, through non-Federal sources, an 
amount equal to the Federal grant. The non-Federal contribution 
may include in-kind contributions of goods and services.


    The Congressional Budget Office estimate of the costs of 
this measure has been requested but was not received at the 
time the report was filed. When the report is available, the 
Chairman will request it to be printed in the Congressional 
Record for the advice of the Senate.

S. 243--National Heritage Partnership Act

    S. 243 would provide a framework for establishing new 
national heritage areas (NHAs). The procedures established by 
S. 243 could affect how many and how quickly new NHAs could be 
established in the future, but none of the activities 
authorized by the bill could be carried out without further 
authorizing legislation. As a result, CBO estimates that 
enacting S. 243--by itself--would have no effect on the federal 
    This legislation contains no intergovernmental or private-
sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act 
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal 
    S. 243 would establish criteria and mechanisms for 
assessing, planning, designating, and developing new national 
heritage areas. For each proposed new NHA, Congressional action 
would be required to authorize both the first step, a 
feasibility study, and the final step, a formal NHA 
    Under the bill, once a feasibility study of a potential NHA 
has been authorized by the Congress, the NPS would either 
conduct the study itself or allow one to be undertaken by an 
interested local entity. Completed and assessed studies would 
then be submitted to the Congress. If legislation to designate 
the NHA is enacted and funds are made available, the chosen 
local coordinating entity for the area would have three years 
to submit a general management plan to the Secretary of the 
Interior for approval.
    The bill would authorize the appropriation of up to 
$250,000 annually for individual feasibility studies (up to a 
total of $750,000 a year). Finally, the bill would authorize 
the appropriation of up to $1 million per NHA per year (up to a 
total of $15 million annually) for financial and technical 
assistance to local coordinating entities. Such funds (up to 
15-year total of $10 million per NHA) would be used to develop 
and implement management plans and administer the area.
    Because the authority to appropriate funds provided in S. 
243 would depend on subsequent acts of Congress to authorize 
feasibility studies and designate new NHAs, CBO estimates that 
enacting this legislation alone would have no effect on the 
federal budget.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Deborah Reis. 
The estimate was reviewed by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.


    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 243.
    The bill is not a regulatory measure in the sense of 
imposing government-established standards or significant 
economic responsibilities on private individuals and 
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 243.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The testimony provided by the Department of the Interior 
and the Government Accountability Office at the Subcommittee 
hearing on S. 2543 in the 108th Congress follows:

 Statement of A. Durand Jones, Deputy Director, National Park Service, 
                       Department of the Interior

    Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, it is my 
pleasure to appear before you today to testify on behalf of the 
Department of the Interior on S. 2543, the National Heritage 
Partnership Act. The Department strongly supports this bill, 
but has a few concerns about some of the provisions.
    The Department strongly supports legislation to establish a 
national heritage areas program. We would like to thank 
Chairman Thomas for his leadership over the last year in 
evaluating programmatic issues, identifying areas for 
legislative action, and introducing this bill based on the 
Administration's legislative proposal. This legislation was 
developed through a year-long process of Congressional 
oversight hearings, outside evaluations of the program (such as 
the March 2004 report by the General Accounting Office) and 
meetings among many of the groups interested in this issue.
    S. 2543 provides a much-needed framework for evaluating 
proposed national heritage area designations, offers guidelines 
for successful planning, clarifies the roles and 
responsibilities of all parties, and standardizes timeframes 
and funding for designated areas.
    The Department supports the national heritage areas 
approach to resource conservation through partnerships with 
communities. National heritage areas are intended to preserve 
nationally important natural, cultural, historic, and 
recreational resources through the creation of partnerships 
among Federal, State and local entities. National heritage 
areas are locally driven, initiated and managed by the people 
who live there and do not impose Federal zoning, land use 
controls nor do they require land acquisition. At its best, the 
collaborative approach of this program embodies Secretary of 
the Interior Gale Norton's ``Four Cs''--Communication, 
Consultation and Cooperation, all in the service of 
    S. 2543 supports a conservative strategy that recognizes 
that the people who live in a heritage area are uniquely 
qualified to preserve it. Being designated as a national 
heritage area can benefit visitors, community residents, 
existing National Park units located in the area, and other 
federal lands by expanding the opportunity to interpret and 
protect resources over a larger landscape and by telling our 
shared national story.
    There are three provisions in S. 2543 that we wish to 
discuss in more detail and to offer suggestions for 

                        criteria for evaluation

    The standards for evaluating areas proposed for national 
designation are an essential element in establishing a national 
heritage areas program. While many places in this nation have 
special meaning to the people that live there, for many places 
designation as a State or local heritage area may be most 
appropriate. The National Park Service should be the lead 
partner only when the resource within a proposed heritage area 
are of national importance.
    The Department has some concerns about the use of the term 
``national significance'' and the definition provided in S. 
2543. We recommend replacing the term ``national significance'' 
with the term ``national importance'' to avoid confusion. The 
National Park Service specifically uses the term ``national 
significance'' in suitability and feasibility studies for new 
National Park System units. For this reason, the term 
``national importance'' has been informally used by the 
National Park Service to describe the assessment of national 
heritage area resources.
    In addition, having a concise, appropriate, and practical 
definition for ``national significance'' or ``national 
importance'' is critical. We would suggest a revised definition 
as applied in practice to existing and proposed national 
heritage areas:
    ``The term `National Importance' is ascribed to a proposed 
heritage area that illustrates major historic, cultural, 
natural or social themes important to the history of the United 
States and contains resources that are outstanding examples of 
natural and cultural features that contribute to the theme, and 
which possess a high degree of integrity, and are compatible 
with continued community development, public enjoyment, and 

                     suitability/feasibility study

    The Department believes that a study should be required for 
every proposed national heritage area and the study should be 
evaluated against legislatively established criteria before 
designation. S. 2543 requires that such a study be prepared 
that demonstrates evidence of place-based resources that tell a 
nationally significant story, which has the support and 
involvement of the local community. This requirement has been 
field-tested and has been shown to increase the future success 
of the heritage area.
    The Department recommends a modification to the terminology 
used for studies. In order to be consistent with terminology 
used in past study and designation bills for national heritage 
areas, we recommend that the studies be called ``feasibility 
studies'' instead of ``suitability/feasibility studies.'' This 
would also lessen any confusion with studies for new units of 
the National Park System that are called suitability and 
feasibility studies. We recommend that this change in 
terminology be used throughout the bill when referring to these 

                         funding and timeframes

    When the first national heritage corridors were designated 
twenty years ago, a Federal commission provided management for 
the areas and the National Park Service provided most of the 
staff. The national heritage corridor or area was conceived as 
a less expensive alternative to the acquisition and operation 
costs of creating a new unit of the National Park System. These 
areas were originally authorized for five years with a five-
year extension; over time, the corridors have been reauthorized 
for additional periods.
    For the 18 national heritage areas established after 1995, 
the National Park Service encouraged management with greater 
involvement by local entities as a more cost-effective use of 
Federal resources. Most of these newer areas are managed by a 
non-profit entity or a State government and include a funding 
formula of not more than $10 million Federal dollars over a 
fifteen-year period. Our legislative proposal recommends 
codifying this approach and for the first time requires that a 
business plan be developed as part of the management planning 
for proposed new areas. This would ensure that from the 
beginning, national heritage areas are working towards and have 
an established plan for self-sufficiency. So far, no existing 
areas has ``graduated'' from the program, even after 20 years 
and in some cases, and nearly $100 million invested overall. 
For this reason, we recognize the need to work with existing 
areas to assist them in a transition strategy as they reach the 
end of their funding authorization. As areas become self-
sufficient, available resources could be reallocated to newly 
designated areas or other priorities.
    The Department is concerned with the new provision in 
section 9 of S. 2543 that caps the heritage areas program at 
$15 million per year. The Administration did not propose a cap 
on the program because we believe it is more appropriate to cap 
the amount of appropriations each area is authorized to 
receive, and to limit the authorized period for appropriations. 
Currently, there are 15 new national heritage areas pending for 
designation in Congress. In addition, there are 24 designated 
national heritage areas, many of which are authorized to 
receive appropriations of $1 million per year. However, we 
would expect to allocate funding among these areas within the 
levels of funds appropriated, which might require providing 
less than the individual authorized ceilings in some instances.


    Recent studies and our own experiences have shown that the 
national heritage area approach links people and place, nature 
and culture, and the present with the past. National heritage 
areas capitalize on the unique role local communities play in 
preserving their heritage and telling their stories. S. 2543 
respects these principles. It assigns the appropriate roles and 
responsibilities to the key partners that must work together to 
make the program successful. It also recognizes the need to 
target our assistance to those areas where there is a national 
interest and where the local partners meet established criteria 
for success. We look forward to working with the committee to 
enact this important legislation.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill S. 243 as ordered