We are grateful for the critical legislation U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) introduced on July 29, 2020, to extend the authorization of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area through 2036.
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) Reauthorization Act of 2020 (HB 7840 and S 4356) provides a 15-year extension, whereas BRNHA’s current authorization is scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2021.
BRNHA, designated by Congress in November 2003, works to protect, preserve, interpret, and develop the unique natural, historical, and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations, and in so doing, to stimulate improved economic opportunity in the region. National Heritage Areas are locally-governed organizations that encourage residents, non-profit groups, government agencies, and private partners to work together to plan and implement programs that preserve and celebrate America’s nationally significant landscapes and cultures.
“On behalf of the BRNHA staff, board of directors, and partners, I would like to thank our Congressional leadership for introducing this important legislation,” said Angie Chandler, BRNHA’s executive director. “The reauthorization of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area will ensure BRNHA’s work will continue across Western North Carolina for years to come.”
As determined by National Park Service evaluations, BRNHA has met the authorization requirements and continues to advance outstanding programs and projects in 25 North Carolina mountain and foothill counties, totaling nearly 11,000 square miles – about the size of the state of Maryland, added Chandler.
“The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area plays an important role in Western North Carolina’s economy and protects the area’s beautiful landscapes and unique history,” said Senator Burr. “Last year, we secured authorization for BRNHA through 2021, but this legislation will go one step further and extend BRNHA’s authorization for 15 additional years. That way, millions of visitors each year can continue to enjoy all Western North Carolina has to offer.”
“The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, is so important to the Western North Carolina tourism industry, creating thousands of jobs and contributing billions of dollars to the local economy,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud to have worked with Senator Burr on this important legislation to extend this program so we can continue to preserve and develop the unique culture of Western North Carolina.”
“The Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina are home to a rich history that is cherished in North Carolina and around the world,” said Congressman McHenry. “The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area was created to protect and preserve the Appalachian traditions that are unique to the area and mean so much to local communities. Beyond the history, the area also plays an important role in our local economy supporting thousands of jobs. I am proud to introduce this bill to help uphold the history and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains for years to come.”
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area will continue to work with its Congressional delegation toward passage of this legislation.