WASHINGTON, DC -- Kentucky is one step closer to receiving its first National Heritage Area designation, thanks to joint efforts by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As federal funding for Fiscal Year 2020 is finalized this week on Capitol Hill, Kentucky's leading legislators ensured the Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area Study Act was included in a final comprehensive package. The act directs the Secretary of the Interior to complete a study to determine whether Kentucky's Appalachian region meets the requirements to become the state's first National Heritage Area.
"Volunteers across Southern and Eastern Kentucky have worked tirelessly to preserve and cleanup the region, and this study brings us one step closer to highlighting their work across our incredible landscape for more visitors to enjoy," said Congressman Rogers. "Senator McConnell and I have worked hard to protect important programs and intiatives for our beloved state, like this Kentucky Wildlands tourism initiative."
"The rich history and scenic beauty of Kentucky’s Appalachian region deserve to be preserved for visitors, families and communities to enjoy, and our bill to tap into this great heritage will help do just that. Promoting the unique culture of the Commonwealth’s wilderness as our first National Heritage Area can encourage new tourism and economic activity in Southern and Eastern Kentucky," said Senator McConnell. "I’d like to thank Congressman Rogers for partnering with me to deliver for this region and the men and women who call it home. As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to ensure this Kentucky initiative will soon be on its way to President Trump’s desk to become law."
The study is a direct result of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE's recent grant award from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to brand the region as the Kentucky Wildlands. As a National Heritage Area, the region would receive technical assistance and federal funding through a partnership with the National Park Service.
The House approved the final federal funding packages on Tuesday afternoon. The bills now move on to the Senate for consideration before the federal funding deadline expires on Friday night.