Reichert Testifies on Designating the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area

Apr 11, 2018 Issues: Energy and Environment

Washington, DC - Today, Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA) was joined by former Washington Senator Slade Gorton in testifying before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands on his bill H.R. 1791, the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act. A bipartisan group of members from the King County Council attended the hearing in support of the legislation, including King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, son of the late Representative Jennifer Dunn.

“It was a privilege testifying today to share what we in Washington State already know well – the Mountains to Sound Greenway is a spectacular landscape worthy of national recognition. With its vibrant mix of small towns, working farms, lush forests and rugged mountains, visitors from across the state, country, and globe visit each year to take in its beauty,” Rep. Reichert said. “I am thankful for the support and dedication of Senator Gorton and Councilmember Reagan Dunn, and urge the Committee to share our view that the Greenway should be designated as a National Heritage Area, benefitting Washingtonians and visitors from around the world.”

This legislation was first introduced by Representative Reichert in the 113th Congress as H.R. 1785, the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act. In November of 2014, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the bill, but the full House never considered it. In the same Congress, the Senate companion legislation passed out of Committee, but it did not receive consideration on the Senate floor.

After receiving feedback over the past four years, Rep. Reichert and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) reintroduced an improved and strengthened bill in March of 2017. This new bill (H.R. 1791) includes important protections for individual rights, private property owners, and tribal communities. It has the support of over 6,000 individuals and groups from government agencies and officials, businesses, outdoor recreation groups, and conservation and heritage organizations, including the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and Outdoor Alliance.

"The Mountains to Sound Greenway Heritage Area will celebrate our region’s vibrant towns and cities, spectacular open spaces, and world-class recreation, giving national recognition to our community’s unique approach to growth which ensures a strong economy and healthy wild spaces are nurtured in concert, not in conflict," said Jon Hoekstra, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust Executive Director. "We greatly appreciate and support Congressman Reichert’s commitment to designate the Greenway as a National Heritage Area, highlighting our region’s heritage and spirit."

"Outdoor Alliance and our regional network in Washington are thrilled to see National Heritage Area legislation move forward,” said Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance. “The Mountains to Sound Greenway is treasured by the outdoor recreation community, with abundant opportunities for whitewater paddling, mountain biking, climbing, and skiing. The NHA legislation is an innovative approach to recognize and celebrate this treasured landscape. Outdoor Alliance admires the diversity of stakeholders involved in celebrating the Greenway's geography, and we have been delighted to be involved in the process."

Background

Since 1991, the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust has worked to preserve the area’s scenic landscapes for recreation, education and conservation. More than 900,000 acres of land now are publicly-owned, including parks and forests such as Tiger Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass and Mount Si. This network of parks, forests, farms, and cities is part of a regional history and a legacy for future generations. The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area will be a fitting recognition of this regional identity in the Pacific Northwest, and serve as a model of sustainability and cooperative solutions for the nation.

National Heritage Areas are Congressionally designated 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. National Heritage Areas are not part of the National Park System. No federal regulations are imposed, and no private land is affected or acquired. Rep. Reichert’s legislation does not force private property owners to participate in any activity or provide public access on their land; it does not affect land use planning; and it does not alter, modify or extinguish treaty rights, water rights, or limit the authority of the state to manage fish and wildlife, including hunting and fishing regulations.

Heritage Area designations are eligible for federal grants and this designation can help draw financial contributions from state, local, and private sources. In addition, Heritage Area designations can help promote tourism, including the marketing of local events and assisting with the operation of museums and visitor centers. A recent economic impact study indicates that National Heritage Areas contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy and support 148,000 jobs, according to the Park Service. On average, each Heritage Area generates about $263 million in economic activity and supports about 3,000 jobs, primarily through tourism and visitor spending.

Other National Heritage Areas nationwide include: the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area in Springfield, Illinois; the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and the Baltimore National Heritage Area in Baltimore, Maryland.