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October 24th, 2007
Grijalva’s Santa Cruz National Heritage Bill Passes House
Watch the floor speechWashington, D.C. Legislation introduced earlier this year by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, to establish the Santa Cruz Valley as a National Heritage Area, has passed the U.S. House of Representatives today.

The legislation passed by a vote of 291-122.

Part of a package of amendments to the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Act, the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act will help preserve and promote the cultural and natural resources in the Santa Cruz Valley.

National Heritage Areas differ from National Parks and other types of Federal designations because they do not impose Federal zoning or regulations on land use, and do not involve land acquisitions. Because a National Heritage Area is locally initiated and managed, it is a community-based conservation strategy that recognizes that the people who live in a heritage area are qualified to preserve its resources.

“I am proud to have brought this bill from the Santa Cruz Valley to the floor of the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Grijalva. “I want to thank all the stakeholders who came together to help protect this area.  Heritage areas connect people to the cultural, historic, and natural treasures of an area, and this legislation will maintain the Santa Cruz Valley through education, preservation and promotion of its unique resources.”

National Heritage Area designation provides federal recognition and financial support. Through annual Congressional appropriations administered by local National Park unit partners, up to $10 million in 50-percent match funding is available to each National Heritage Area over a period of 15 years. This “seed money” can help cover basic expenses such as staffing, and leverages other money from state, local, and private sources to implement locally selected projects.  This initial investment ensures that these areas get a solid start toward financial and operational independence. 

“Congress can either provide the program the tools and support it needs to continue maturing into a successful preservation model or we can turn our backs on heritage areas and leave local communities to fend for themselves,” said Grijalva. “Ever since Congress established heritage areas over twenty years ago, heritage tourism has been growing. Today, it has become a significant economic engine. These areas are worthwhile not only as a way to help local economies, but as a crucial tool in preserving our communities’ links to their past.”

The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area would encompass roughly 3,300 square miles in southern Arizona, bordering Mexico.

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