February 26, 2019

Moulton Plan to Increase Funding for the Essex National Heritage Area Headed to White House

WASHINGTON – Today, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Natural Resources Management Act, which Outside Magazine has called “the most wide-reaching and important public lands legislation passed since the 1970s.” The Act includes text of a bill Representative Seth Moulton, former Representative Niki Tsongas and Senator Ed Markey championed to increase the amount of money the Essex National Heritage Area can receive from Congress over the program’s lifetime. The Senate passed its version of the bill earlier this month. It is widely expected to become law.

“People often say that the government should run more like a business. Any business that invests $17 million and generates a $150 million return, with the added benefit of employing thousands of people, should double down on that investment, not shut the program down,” Moulton said. “That’s what this bill makes possible for the Essex National Heritage Area. Senator Markey and former Representative Tsongas have been great partners in the effort, and I will keep working with our state’s representatives to preserve our history and grow our region’s economy.”

The Essex National Heritage Area spans 500 square-miles and connects 34 cities and towns from Lynn and Salem to Amesbury and Newburyport. Since it was created in 1996, Congress has been able to invest up to $17 million in the Area over time. The bill passed today increases the amount of funding the area is eligible to receive to $20 million.

Annie Harris, the Director of the Essex National Heritage Area said: “I am incredibly happy that this legislation passed.  The passage of this major public lands legislation is an extraordinary accomplishment and a great credit to our Massachusetts legislators.  Essex Heritage expects to receive about $628,000 in federal funds this year and we will use these funds to match and leverage another $2 million in projects and programs throughout Essex County.”

Congress’s investment in the Essex National Heritage Area supports about 2,000 jobs and generates more than $150 million in local economic activity. That economic activity leads to $14.3 million in tax revenue.

Today’s bill is the first step to increasing funding for the National Heritage Area and expanding its life. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will determine how much funding the Area receives later this year. Additionally, the law that created the Essex National Heritage Area in 1996 had a sunset clause that takes effect in 2021.

Moulton and other Massachusetts lawmakers are working to fix that. Last Congress, Moulton and Markey introduced a standalone bill with former Representative Niki Tsongas that would lift the sunset. Moulton plans to work with members of the state’s congressional delegation to re-introduce it later this year.

According to the National Park Service, National Heritage Areas are Congressionally-designated places where “natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.” Unlike National Parks, most National Heritage Areas are within large communities and managed by independent, local non-profits that receive funds from the federal government through the Park Service. Research from the Park Service indicates every $1.00 Congress invests in a National Heritage Area leads to $5.50 in local economic activity.

The Natural Resources Management Act contains 169 other provisions including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Fund uses revenue from offshore mineral and gas leases to protect millions of acres of public land including state and local parks, wetlands and historic battlefields.

Renewing the LWCF has historically been an area of strong bipartisan cooperation in Congress. But, Congress failed to renew LWCF when it expired late last year. According to Outside, since the LWCF lapsed, America’s protected lands have lost $2.5 million in funding every day.

In addition to renewing LWCF, the bill funds the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a national service program that will pair young Americans with veterans on projects that restore national parks and public lands.

The bill also renews an Obama-era program that gives every American fourth grader free admission to the National Parks System, and a separate program that will restore historic buildings at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.