The last two U.S. presidents supported cutting funding for the National Heritage Areas created by Congress, and doing so would save $29 million, according to Citizens Against Government Waste’s annual report “Prime Cuts,” a list of recommendations to reduce the record national debt.
There are currently 62 National Heritage Areas. Not all receive federal support, but those that do received $7 million in earmarks in FY 2023, or 42.9 percent more than the $4.9 million earmarked in FY 2022.
“National Heritage Areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes,” the National Park Service website states. “Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, National Heritage Area entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.”
National Heritage Areas are not national park units but are operated by the National Park Service and have received 56 earmarks totaling $153.4 million since FY 2001. They have funded projects like park improvements, sports complexes, health centers, water quality monitoring, bike paths, sustainable agriculture and agricultural tourism, according to CAGW.
Each of former President Barak Obama’s budgets from FY 2011 through FY 2017 slashed funding for National Heritage Areas. The FY 2017 version of CAGW’s report recommended trimming the budget by 55 percent, from $20 million to $9 million.
The last three of former President Donald Trump’s proposed budgets called for ending the Heritage Partnership Program, which funds the areas, saving $22 million. The 2021 report noted there is no “systematic process for designating Heritage Partnership Areas or determining their effectiveness,” and made the same argument that former President Obama made in his FY 2011 budget that funding for the Heritage Partnership Program diverted resources from core National Park Service responsibilities.
Unfortunately, members of Congress ignore these proposed budget reductions that have bipartisan support.
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