Washington, D.C.– Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 324, a bill introduced by Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, to designate the Santa Cruz Valley as a National Heritage Area.
The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area would encompass roughly 3,300 square miles in southern Arizona, bordering Mexico. The designation would provide federal funds for the development of a locally-initiated and community-based conservation strategy for the Santa Cruz Valley, recognizing the importance and uniqueness of the region.
Prior to final passage an amendment was included, despite that heritage areas are and always have been non-controversial, to make sure that this heritage area would not impede any border enforcement activities.
Congressman Grijalva issued the following statement:
“Passage of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Act by the House of Representatives today is a significant step toward ensuring our region’s natural, historical and cultural assets are preserved into the future.
“Sharing a border with Mexico, the Santa Cruz River Valley encompasses a multitude of cultures and a rich, diverse history. Many nationally recognized historical sites and natural treasures are situated within the proposed Heritage Area, such as the Tumacacori National Historic Park, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the Tucson Origins Cultural Park.
“The creation of a National Heritage Area in the Valley will allow our communities, on an entirely voluntary basis, to access federal funds for preservation and it will help provide economic development by putting our area on the map to visitors as a fantastic and interesting place to visit.
“The Santa Cruz Valley is an important part of who I am today. Growing up at the Canoa Ranch, where my father worked, my first memories are of the beauty of that scenic valley. I hope that one day, my grandchildren and their children will be able to experience some of what I did as a child, and I believe making this bill a law will help achieve that.
“I would like to make note that nothing in this bill would interfere with law enforcement efforts. There are no restrictions, express or implied, on the activities of Federal, state or local law enforcement. Nor is there anything in the management history of heritage areas over the past quarter of a century that would lead any rational person to conclude that these areas somehow supercede the authorities of law enforcement officials at any level. This allegation is simply fear-mongering. The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area has been in existence along the Arizona border with Mexico for nearly a decade, and there is no evidence it has impeded border security. It would be tragic if unfounded fears of immigration prevented us from protecting and preserving 12,000 years of rich cultural history.
“It is for that reason that I call upon my colleagues in the other body, the U.S. Senate, to move this bill forward as soon as possible, so that the communities in the Santa Cruz Valley can begin to bring their efforts together to preserve the important resources of the area.”