National Heritage Area

The process is underway to designate southern and eastern Kentucky as the Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area. The Secretary of the Interior is undertaking a study to determine whether the region meets the requirements to become Kentucky’s first National Heritage Area. Congressman Hal Rogers and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed companion bills in the House and Senate to begin the federal process in December 2019.

National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural and historic resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, National Heritage Area entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs. Since 1984, 55 National Heritage Area designations have been made across the United States.

As a National Heritage Area, The Kentucky Wildlands would receive technical assistance and federal funding through a partnership with the National Park Service. The National Park Service is a partner and advisor, leaving decision-making authority in the hands of local people and organizations. The National Park Service does not assume ownership of land inside heritage areas or impose land use controls.

The NPS provides this list of some of the long-term benefits of National Heritage Area activities:

  • Sustainable economic development — National Heritage Areas leverage federal funds (averaging $5.50 for every $1.00 of federal investment) to create jobs, generate revenue for local governments, and sustain local communities through revitalization and heritage tourism.
  • Healthy environment and people — Many National Heritage Areas improve water and air quality in their regions through restoration projects and encourage people to enjoy natural and cultural sites by providing new recreational opportunities. 
  • Improved quality of life — Through new or improved amenities, unique settings, and educational and volunteer opportunities, National Heritage Areas improve local quality of life.
  • Education and stewardship — National Heritage Areas connect communities to natural, historic and cultural sites through educational activities, which promote awareness and foster interest in and stewardship of heritage resources.
  • Community engagement and pride — By engaging community members in heritage conservation activities, National Heritage Areas strengthen sense of place and community pride.

Popular Destinations in the Kentucky Wildlands

Bark Camp Creek Falls

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Breaks Interstate Park

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Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park

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Cumberland Falls

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