February 14, 2019

Kilmer, Heck proposal to establish first National Heritage Area in the Pacific Northwest passes Senate in comprehensive public lands package

Maritime Heritage Act intends to preserve Washington state’s maritime history

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tuesday, the Senate voted 92-8 in favor of S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, a sweeping public lands package that included a bill led by Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Denny Heck (D-WA) to establish a National Maritime Heritage Area in Washington state.

 The Kilmer-Heck Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 975), which was championed in the Senate by Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Murray (D-WA), would designate a majority of Western Washington’s shoreline as a National Heritage Area to help promote maritime-related tourism, economic development and maritime history as told through Washington state’s museums, historic ships, fishing culture and other activities. 

 This would be the first National Heritage Area established in the Pacific Northwest. Congress has designated 49 National Heritage Areas nationwide to promote local economic growth and tourism and preserve sites and landmarks with cultural and historical significance.

 “This bill will honor our shared maritime traditions and support our local economies,” said Kilmer and Heck. “We want to express gratitude to Senator Cantwell for her leadership on this.  By creating a National Maritime Heritage Area and helping coastal communities protect national treasures along our coast, we can remind future generations of our rich history along the water and attract visitors from across the nation. We’re proud to see progress made on this bill which will support the vibrancy of our coastal communities, and we hope the House will move forward soon.” 

 The provision included in S. 47 would create a heritage area that consists of lighthouses, historic vessels, parks, and other landmarks located within one-quarter mile of the shoreline in 13 counties, including Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan, Island, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam, and Grays Harbor counties. It also would include 19 Native American tribes, 32 cities and 30 port districts. 

 National Heritage Areas are partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and local communities through which the Park Service supports local and state efforts to preserve natural resources and promote tourism. They are operated by local boards that are established by legislation. National Heritage Areas are not part of the National Park System, which are lands that are federally-owned and managed. No federal regulations are imposed, and no private land is affected or acquired.

 Heritage Area designations are eligible for federal grants, and can help draw contributions from state, local and private sources. Heritage Area designations also help coordinate marketing and tourism promotion, such as developing websites, putting up highway signs to advertise sites, sponsoring festivals, and publishing brochures and tour maps. Heritage Areas also can help with assisting in the operation of museums and visitor centers.

 A recent economic impact study conducted by the National Park Service indicates National Heritage Areas contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy and support 148,000 jobs.

 Following Senate passage, S. 47 now awaits further consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.