On March 10, 2021, U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) reintroduced critical legislation that calls for the reauthorization of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA). If passed, this 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.
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) Reauthorization Act 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.
“Western North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country,” said Senator Burr. “The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is not only a stunning part of the country and culturally important, it is also a critical component of our state’s economy. It is vital that Congress take steps to preserve the rich history of this area to ensure visitors can continue to enjoy all that Western North Carolina has to offer for years to come. This legislation does just that by extending the program’s funding for the next 15 years.”
“The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains were the most visited national parks in 2020, seeing more than 12 million visitors,” said Senator Tillis. “The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, means so much to North Carolina and everyone who visits. Equally, it is important to the Western North Carolina tourism industry, creating thousands of jobs and contributing billions of dollars to the local economy. We are so lucky to have this beautiful land in our great state, and I am proud to have worked with Senator Burr on this important legislation to extend this program to continue to preserve and develop the unique culture of Western North Carolina.”
Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Bill numbers are HR 1759 and S 654.
BRNHA will continue to work with its Congressional delegation toward passage of this legislation.