Garrison, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney today announced a plan to harness the economic potential and protect the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley. Stretching from Saratoga to Westchester Counties, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area links over 100 individual sites that promote tourism and recreation in the region while showcasing the Hudson Valley’s unique role in American history and development. Extending the Hudson River Valley National Heritage area would keep the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area operating to promote recreation and tourism, as well as enabling them to continue to access matching federal funding for projects in the area. In addition, studying the designation as a unit of the National Park system would expand federal support, helping to boost tourism and preserve and restore the region’s historic sites and cultural resources. Reauthorization of the Highlands Conservation Act is an important step in protecting water quality and agricultural opportunities in the Hudson Valley.
“The Hudson River Valley is truly one of America’s richest treasures, and holds enormous potential that we are still unlocking,” Senator Gillibrand said. “From the Adirondacks to the busy ports of New York City, the Hudson River Valley helps fuel our economy, inspires our artists, and provides New Yorkers with miles of adventure and endless recreation. As New York’s first Senator from upstate in nearly 40 years, I will always work to preserve the beauty and tradition of the Hudson River Valley, and this bill is an important step to continue garnering the national recognition it deserves.”
“The Hudson River Valley is not only a unique cultural and historical resource, it is a lynchpin of our region’s economy,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland). “The bills that we are introducing would continue the successful partnership between the Hudson River Valley and our federal government, which supports thousands of jobs and local economies. We must lay the foundation for future investment and economic activity by making the Hudson River Valley part of our national park system.”
“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to invest in the local economy and preserve the Hudson Valley’s incredible scenic, historic, agricultural, and natural resources,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “This legislation is a true collaboration to boost tourism, invest in our local economy and create jobs.”
“I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her legislation recognizing the economic potential and special character of the Hudson Valley,” said State Senator Terry Gipson. “I look forward to further working with Senator Gillibrand to grow our local economy and welcome these initiatives to Dutchess and Putnam Counties.”
“The Hudson River Valley offers such a wealth of tourism attractions and outdoor recreation areas. I am so pleased to be here today at beautiful Boscobel, just one of the many jewels in the Valley, to support Senator Gillibrand’s important legislation that will help promote and protect this wonderful treasure. I hope this legislation will give a boost to the area and help make even more of the historical and scenic highlights in the area important go-to destinations for visitors and residents alike. This is good for the economy as well as our bodies and minds, supporting local shops, outdoor recreation areas including our parks and waterways, historic sites, restaurants, hotels, and leisure vehicle rentals, among others. I thank the Senator for her foresight and support of this area with her legislative initiative,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef.
“Collaboration and leadership are essential to protecting the Hudson Valley’s rich natural resources, which generate $4 billion annually in economic benefit through tourism and outdoor recreation, and ensure clean drinking water for millions. That’s why Senator Gillibrand’s strong leadership on this package of bills is so important. The Highlands Conservation Act and other pieces of legislation bring together communities across the region to identify, plan for and protect open spaces and cultural resources that provide jobs and safeguard the Hudson Valley’s quality of life,” said Ned Sullivan, President, Scenic Hudson.
Mark Castiglione, Acting Executive Director, Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area said, “Our natural, cultural and historic resources define our quality of life. By working to promote, protect and celebrate those resources, National Heritage Areas help to provide a solid foundation for sustainable regional economies. The partnerships and programs National Heritage Areas support are now boldly being championed through Governor Cuomo’s Path Through History program and bolstered by the largest tourism campaign in decades, committing nearly $60 million to grow the State’s tourism industry. This bill will allow us to continue to bring federal resources to the table that serve as a catalyst for partnerships and projects which help create jobs and attract even more visitors to the Hudson River Valley. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her support of our National Heritage Area and leadership in advancing this important bill.”
First authorized in 1996, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage authorization expired last year. Without the authorization, the area designation ceases to exist and is no longer eligible to apply for matching federal funding to be used to help preserve and promote historical, cultural, recreational, and natural sites in the region. The legislation would extend of the authorization for 10 more years.
The officials also introduced legislation to authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on whether the Hudson River Valley should become a unit of the National Park system. Under such a distinction, the region would benefit from greater national attention, additional federal resources to support and preserve heritage sites, and increased regional tourism, all of which would contribute to job creation and economic growth.
The Hudson River Valley is already designated as a federal National Heritage Area and state Greenway, but the current federal designation provides only limited funding that is subject to change each budget year. A designation as a National Park unit would provide more consistent and expanded federal support, including National Park Service staff and national attention to the region, all of which would help to boost tourism and preserve and restore the region’s historic sites and cultural resources.
For the Hudson River Valley to become a unit of the National Park System, a congressionally-authorized NPS study must be conducted. The officials legislation would authorize such a study for the counties within the borders of current the Hudson River National Heritage Area. Specifically, the area to be studied would include the counties abutting the Hudson River that flows from Rogers Island at Fort Edward in Washington County to the southern boundary of Westchester County.
The bill provides guidelines to ensure that the NPS study recognizes the unique realities of the Hudson River Valley and its differences from more traditional National Park Service units. These guidelines require the NPS to closely examine park unit models, in particular national river and recreation areas, as well as other landscape protection models, that: encompass large areas of non-federal lands within their designated boundaries; foster public and private collaborative arrangements for achieving NPS objectives, and protect and respect the rights of private land owners. No forced land acquisition activities would be permitted.
Following a study, legislation would be required for a National Park Service unit designation to move forward. Under that legislation, all activities that are currently permissible under state or local laws would be unaffected because the National Park Service would have no legal authority to overrule state or local laws and policies on non-federal lands, such as those governing hunting and fishing, regardless of whether the region sits within a nationally designated unit of the park system.
Senator Gillibrand is also planning to introduce legislation to reauthorize the Highlands Conservation Act in the Senate. The Highlands is a 3.5 million acre region of undeveloped forest, farmland, and rugged hills stretching from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and New York to Connecticut essential to the long-term provision of clean water for both human consumption and agricultural use. In passing the HCA in 2004, Congress acknowledged that targeted conservation of these lands is vital to the prosperity of the region. Protecting the Highlands is essential to protect clean water for over 20 million people in the region. Protection of the Highlands is a collaborative endeavor. All federal Highlands dollars are matched 100 percent by state, local, and private organizations, making Highlands funding an effective investment of federal resources. Representatives Lowey and Maloney are cosponsors of the legislation in the House.