WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) Reauthorization Act of 2020, legislation to extend the authorization of BRNHA through 2036. Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) introduced similar in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.
“The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area plays an important role in Western North Carolina’s economy and protects the area’s beautiful landscapes and unique history,” said Senator Burr. “Last year, we secured authorization for BRNHA through 2021, but this legislation will go one step further and extend BRNHA’s authorization for 15 additional years. That way, millions of visitors each year can continue to enjoy all Western North Carolina has to offer.”
“The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, is so important to the Western North Carolina tourism industry, creating thousands of jobs and contributing billions of dollars to the local economy,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud to have worked with Senator Burr on this important legislation to extend this program so we can continue to preserve and develop the unique culture of Western North Carolina.”
“The Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina are home to a rich history that is cherished in North Carolina and around the world,” said Congressman McHenry. “The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area was created to protect and preserve the Appalachian traditions that are unique to the area and mean so much to local communities. Beyond the history, the area also plays an important role in our local economy supporting thousands of jobs. I am proud to introduce this bill to help uphold the history and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains for years to come.”
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 173 grants totaling over $2.3 million, with $5.6 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 2020 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.