Stop H.R. 1483, the “Celebrating America’s Heritage Act”

*American Policy Center to Testify*

Action Alert! Action Alert!

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We wrote you last August asking you tell your U.S. Senators not to approve a series of bills establishing new National Heritage Areas, while establishing a national program. Unfortunately, the Senate did not listen. According to Peyton Knight, Director of the Center of environmental and Regulatory Affairs at the National Policy Center, “On Wednesday or Thursday of next week (October 24th or 25th), the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a massive national heritage area bill, H.R. 1483, the “Celebrating America’s Heritage Act.” This bill would create six new national heritage areas, including the highly controversial “Journey Through Hallowed Ground” heritage area. “If this bill is passed, there will be nothing and no one, except the U.S. Park Service, standing between the serious threats these NHAs pose to local communities and private landowners across the nation. And we all know how good a friend and neighbor the U.S. Park Service is! Of some encouragement, the House of Representatives is more responsive to, and considerate of, ordinary everyday Americans. Yet you must make sure they hear your message loud and clear – NO MORE NATIONAL HERITAGE AREAS, period, end of sentence!

H.R. 1483 would create the following six new national heritage areas at a total initial cost of $90 million: Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; Niagara Falls National Heritage Area in New York; Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in Alabama; Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area in Massachusetts and New Hampshire; Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area in Illinois; and the Santa Cruz National Heritage Area in Arizona.

It would reauthorize and increase funding for the following nine existing National Heritage Areas through FY 2012 at an additional cost of $45 million: National Coal Heritage Area; Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area; Augusta Canal Heritage Area; Steel Industry Heritage Project; Essex National Heritage Area; South Carolina National Heritage Corridor; America’s Agricultural Heritage Partnership; Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor; and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.

H.R. 1483 extends the authorization and funding for nine NHAs that have almost tapped out their funding authorization. Then Committee Democrats tacked on an additional $5 million funding to each of six new NHAs above what supporters requested. Add that to the funding extensions of the existing nine, and you have a whopping $135 million in pork and earmarks to special interest groups. Most of these groups, if not all, are known for their rigid anti-property rights agenda. This outrage would take all the federal taxes paid by over 33,000 average Americans, and use them to rob similar Americans of their private property and their God-given right to determine its use.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced a common sense amendment allowing property owners the choice to remove their land from any NHA boundaries and require the management entity of a heritage area to obtain written consent from an owner before their property is conserved, preserved, or promoted. Additionally, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6) and Rep. Virgil Goode (VA-5) requested their affected districts be removed from these NHA designations altogether. Both efforts were rebuffed. This is amazing hubris on the part of the Democratically-controlled Committee, intending to force designations on Congressional districts where the duly-elected representatives state they’re not desired or welcome.

Committee Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) asserts “protections are there for (people) to opt in or opt out.” Yet a dissent filed by 15 members of the House Resources Committee questions, “Why would private property owners believe they will be able to ‘opt out’ when two Members of Congress could not have their districts removed? We believe a Member’s wish to be included in a Federal designation is an essential qualification to its creation. It is distressing that a federal designation, especially a controversial Heritage Area, which is typically billed as ‘voluntary,’ is being forced on two Congressional districts…”

One of the new NHAs proposed in H.R. 1483 is the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area (NFNHA). The NFNHA is especially troubling; it lacks a local managing entity to support and administer the designation AND plans to build and operate a casino as part of a redevelopment scheme. The U.S. government would be not only promoting gambling, but the Secretary of the Interior would be administering the facilities. Perhaps the Secretary intends to use the gambling proceeds to repay the plundered tax dollars … in a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul scam.

This latest effort to establish more NHAs is still pork barrel politics at its worst. Special interest groups are relying on deceit and outright lies to gain approval, hoping to pad their pockets at the expense of property owners and local economies. Again, if H.R. 1483 passes, and old NHA designations are extended, and new ones are created, it will likely then make establishment of a national program unstoppable. This will result in a FLOOD of new National Heritage Areas, each of which will DEVOUR private property rights, CONTROL local land use, and DESTROY local businesses. If a national program is created, the march will be on. Virtually every square inch of these united States could soon be within an NHA boundary, subject to the iron-fisted regulatory rule of the National Park Service and its green partners. We must make a stand and not let this happen!

ACTION TO TAKE:

Contact Chairman Grijalva. You can phone his office at (202) 225-2435, or by fax at (202) 226-6846, or by email at [email protected]
It is also urgent you call your Congressmen NOW. Tell them all:

  • Oppose H.R. 1483, and any other creation or extension of any National Heritage Area.
  • This is a massive federal land grab and must not pass.
  • 114 Groups and local leaders recently called on Congress to NOT support the creation of any additional NHAs. The letter can be viewed here:? http://www.nationalcenter.org/NHACoalitionLetter0907.pdf
  • Congress can help you “protect” your private property rights best by keeping greedy federal (and allies’) mitts off your land.
  • This is pork barrel politics and must not be passed, especially in the dead of night!

    Tell them you’ll be watching, and will remember, their vote!

    If you don’t know your Congressmen’s phone numbers, call the Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121. Ask for your Representatives by name, or tell the switchboard what state and city or town you’re in, and you will be directly connected with the desired offices.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.