Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994

The American Heritage Areas
The National Park Service National Heritage Corridor Scheme for Federal Control of Zoning

It is hard to imagine that the National Park Service, which already has 21 administrative categories from National Parks to National Scenic Trails, plus seven more nebulous realms of control from U.N. Biosphere Reserves to National Historic Districts, would receive serious Congressional reception to a program that would ultimately give it control of all land area in the entire 2,500 mile Mississippi River valley and at least 100 other already-defined river "regions." But the 104th Congress has both a Democratic bill proposed by Bruce Vento (D, Minn.), known as the American Heritage Area Act (HR1301) and a Republican bill proposed by Joel Hefley (R, Co.) deceptively entitled the National Technical Assistance Act (HR1280), to create the framework for the vast land-control system. Both Heritage versions are opposed by Republican Congressional champions of private property rights.

The program is innocently couched as a way for the Park Service to extend financial support and technical assistance to preserve the cultural, economic and natural resources of "distinct ensemblages" of physical assets of a region by designating the corridor as an American Heritage Area.

Certain Democrat and Republican supporters claim that the American Heritage Corridor system has "grassroots" support, but the grassroots is generated by pork barrel to sell it locally and environmental lobbying by the Heritage Area Coalition funded by taxpayers through the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Heritage Area Coalition has published the admission that it will live happily with the sanitized, substitute Republican bill because it can build on the designation.

While deceptive proponents were slipping the corridor plans through Congress a few at a time, the Property Rights Foundation discovered the enormous secret extent of designations that are being cultivated by the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

There is no practical point to the designations as "honors" supposedly bestowed as incentives for tourism. As for the guise of economic development, the designations are only a ploy. Manufacturing, modern agriculture, and commerce will suffer. Furthermore, sportsmen will be blocked from fishing and boating access to rivers, as Jack Peters, secretary of the Federated Rhode Island Sportsmen's Clubs reports is happening at the much touted model area, the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor. In Rhode Island, the new bike and hiking trail for the Heritage corridor is blocking off existing river access routes used by sportsmen, according to Peters, just as limited access highways block off cross-roads. Although promised when the support of fishermen was sought, boat ramps are not being allowed. Hunting is being deemed "incompatible."

The official management plan for the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor, prepared by the Center for Rural Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts, Amhearst, declares:

"Regional Commissions
"At some point, a sufficient level of concern is reached along with a growing concern that voluntary, non-regulatory measures are themselves insufficient to ensure that environmental, cultural and historic resources are adequately protected against indiscriminate and inappropriate development. One response has been to draft an intergovernmental cooperative agreement outlining responsibilities of each party to guarantee consistency and coordination in future actions taken by participating municipal governments, and state and federal agencies." (p 56, emphasis added)

In an area that is sometimes cited as a model, the Columbia River Gorge, an interstate, federal commission, has denied property owners the use of their land and severely damaged the tax base. The Trust for Public Land aggressively depopulated the historic mill town of Bridal Veil, scaring out the last few residents with an "asbestos exposure" fraud.

The elite genesis of the American Heritage Areas scheme is illustrated by the corruption of New York's Hudson River Greenway agency head. The director, David Sampson, has been receiving his salary and benefits, not from the State Comptroller, but from the Rockefellers' Historic Hudson Valley via a donation to that charity from the Rockefellers' Jackson Hole Preserve.

That New York Greenway agency was conceived as a state-level agency to supersede local zoning powers. Only after 6 bill revisions was the Greenway zoning made voluntary using a carrot and stick approach. The member of the New York Legislature who sought the mandatory agency has been espousing a National Park Service Hudson Valley Heritage Area since being elected to Congress. Meanwhile, funding has come through secretly for a National Park Service study of the 10-county area.

An illustration of the National Park Service's requirement for a management plan is the Augusta Canal National Heritage Corridor, where the National Park Service stated at a congressional hearing in June 1994,

"We recommend… that the designation of the heritage corridor shall not take effect until the Secretary of the Interior approved the partnership compact for the heritage corridor…"

The compact would require "evidence of commitment to modify zoning and regulations."

The one area with the name "Heritage," which is a genuine economic development project and has no official boundaries or regional plan, is located in southwestern Pennsylvania. It has been slammed by the proponents of heavy planning with trumped-up claims of heavy cost overruns so that the National Park Service can push through legislation to create boundaries and a management compact for the region.

The main two features of both the Democratic and Republican bills are the same—the requirement for compacts between the Secretary of Interior and a State or regional entity for a land management plan and the requirement that the boundaries of the region be defined. These two features are the foundation for a greenway under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

The American Heritage Corridors, starting in county-wide river bed designations, are being expanded into other geographic zones, an example being the controversial National Park Service Catskill Mountaintop Heritage Corridor for lower New York State. The capacity under the American Heritage Areas for Federal control of land-use planning as viewsheds, riverfronts, flood plains, watersheds, culturally significant sites, or historic routes is endless. The real purposes are biodiversity, land bridges and corridors under the Wildlands and U.N. Biosphere Reserve schemes, and elite rural gentrification. National Park Service control of land-use planning in all but large urban centers may result if the Heritage Areas system of designations is established.

The National Park Service's current abuse of private property rights in Alaska and many other areas of the country argues that instead of granting it power to dictate land-use planning, Congress ought to conduct a broad investigation of the violation of the law by National Park Service and restructure the agency.


Revealing Comments on the Heritage Area Program


The Danger of Designations
The Republican Heritage Area program compromise
A temporary expedient on which to build more federal intrusions

"In general, it appears that if we are to see federal legislation addressing heritage areas in this Congress, we must be prepared to accept a shortened step along the pathway many of us envision. In the best of all possible worlds, perhaps someday we will see a combination of what has been laid out in some other 'national heritage corridor' legislation and ideas for linking other federal agency programs to the basic foundation of a designation program."

"Letter from the Chair," Heritage Links, the publication of the National Coalition for Heritage Areas April 1995, p 1 (emphasis added)


The Insidious Plan to Get the Heritage Program Passed
The National Park Service Director's Comment on the 1989 draft American Heritage Protection Program

"I would say that its goals are noble and there are some good concepts within the draft, but its chances to pass are about as good as a snowball in hell."

"It simply tries to do too much and threatens too many individual freedoms. It is geared to not allowing another Manassas to occur, but I believe the heavy hand of big government will be clearly seen and defeated if such a bill is introduced…"

"Suggestion: That you… begin to think about putting something together a little less broad in scope."

from an Aug. 30, 1989 internal memo by National Park Service Director James M. Ridenour


The Democrat and liberal Republican Heritage Schemes

"Ultimately, therefore, the parties differ little. Both exploit the legitimate ideals of ordinary Americans for selfish ends. The former support central planning not only because it distributes largess that buys votes, but also because they believe in it. The latter harbor philosophical objections to big government but promote it anyway, because it preserves incumbency."

Comments on the American Heritage Areas Act and the National Technical Assistance Act by Alston Chase, July 1995 Creators Syndicate

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