Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that her legislation to take the first step towards designating the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area was signed into law on Tuesday as a provision in the Natural Resources Management Act. Gillibrand’s legislation, the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Study Act, authorizes the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study in Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates counties. Gillibrand has pushed to designate the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area since 2015, when she first announced her legislation in Red Jacket Park on the bank of Keuka Lake.
“I’m thrilled that we can finally begin the process of designating the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Finger Lakes Region is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places in our state. A National Heritage Area designation would encourage more people from all over the country to visit the Finger Lakes region and see for themselves how beautiful this area is. The designation would also help preserve the region’s natural treasures and promote local tourism. I was proud to lead the push in the Senate to begin this process and I am excited to see it passed into law.”
A feasibility study is the first step in determining whether a region has the resources and local capacity necessary to be designated as a National Heritage Area. Designating the Finger Lakes region as a National Heritage Area would help boost local tourism and conserve and protect the region’s natural, historic, and cultural resources. According to the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance’s data from 2017, tourism in the region’s 14 counties generates over $3 billion in business and employs 58,242 people. The Finger Lakes region is home to more than 400 registered historic sites and landmarks, 135 museums, 80 art galleries, 14 professional theater companies, 100 wineries, 300 bed and breakfast facilities, and 650 miles of shoreline.
A National Heritage Area designation would help give the Finger Lakes Region the platform it needs to leverage funds and secure long-term, sustainable support for heritage conservation and economic development. By incorporating community input, National Heritage Areas turn every $1.00 of federal investment into $5.50 for jobs and government revenue that helps boost local tourism while protecting the region’s precious natural, historic, and cultural resources.
National Heritage Areas are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. Through public-private partnerships, National Heritage Area entities support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, and educational projects. The National Heritage Area program currently includes 49 heritage areas across the country, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership in New York, and is administered by the National Park Service.