03.10.21

Sens. Burr, Tillis Introduce Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act

Today, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) reintroduced the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) Reauthorization Act. This legislation extends the authorization of BRNHA through 2036 to preserve Western North Carolina’s cultural, historic, and natural resources while continuing to develop economic opportunities in the region. The Senators first introduced the bill in July 2020.

“Western North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country,” said Senator Burr. “The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is not only a stunning part of the country and culturally important, it is also a critical component of our state’s economy. It is vital that Congress take steps to preserve the rich history of this area to ensure visitors can continue to enjoy all that Western North Carolina has to offer for years to come. This legislation does just that by extending the program’s funding for the next 15 years.”

“The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains were the most visited national parks in 2020, seeing more than 12 million visitors,” said Senator Tillis. “The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, means so much to North Carolina and everyone who visits. Equally, it is important to the Western North Carolina tourism industry, creating thousands of jobs and contributing billions of dollars to the local economy. We are so lucky to have this beautiful land in our great state, and I am proud to have worked with Senator Burr on this important legislation to extend this program to continue to preserve and develop the unique culture of Western North Carolina.”

Background:

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) was created by Congress in 2003 to preserve and develop the distinctive culture of Western North Carolina and South Appalachia. It includes North Carolina’s 25 western-most counties and two of the state’s most visited National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Since 2003, BRNHA has awarded 188 grants totaling over $2.4 million, with $5.7 million leveraged in matching contributions from local and private investments. Additionally, BRNHA supports more than 30,000 jobs and has an annual total economic impact of $2.39 billion.

In 2017, Senators Burr and Tillis introduced legislation to extend the BRNHA authorization through 2021. This legislation was reintroduced last year and it was included in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which was signed into law on March 12, 2019.

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) Reauthorization Act of 2021 will go one step further by extending BRNHA’s authorization through 2036. Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.