The Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area Public Comment

THANK YOU for helping put The Kentucky Wildlands on the map as Kentucky's first and only National Heritage Area. (There are only 55 in the nation!) Details are below, and please feel free to ask us for more information at

About The Public Comment Process

The National Park Service (NPS) is studying the suitability and feasibility of designating a part of southeastern Kentucky as The Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area (NHA). Congress authorized the study and will consider the findings when deciding whether The Kentucky Wildlands should be named an NHA - which would benefit our region tremendously. (Scroll down to learn more about NHAs and their benefits.)

The study includes a Public Comment period to learn if there is:

1) A unique, nationally important story being told in the study area. (They want to hear your stories about your local culture, history, and landscape. For ideas about what makes our region unique and nationally important, scroll down or check The Kentucky Wildlands website, especially the Heritage & Culture page.)

2) Widespread public support for NHA designation. (LOTS of comments will help our chances of becoming an NHA.)

3) An organization has the financial and administrative capacity to coordinate management of the NHA. (PRIDE created The Kentucky Wildlands for this purpose, so we are ready to lead! For details, scroll down to Question #5.)

Public comments are due by 11:59 pm MT on June 1, 2022.

How to Comment

The Public Comment form asks 6 questions. For tips on answering them, scroll down.

To open the Public Comment form, click here. To read about the feasibility study first, click here (and then click "Open for Comment" to reach the Public Comment form).

Tips for Filling In the Public Comment Form

You do not need to answer all 6 questions on the Public Comment form. Please feel free to focus on the questions most relevant to you and leave others blank. (If the form prompts you to enter an answer, you can write "none," "no answer," etc.)

You can answer for your community, rather than the entire region. The questions ask about the 41-county region, but you can focus on the area you best (your city, county, multiple counties, etc.). When all the comments are put together, they will tell the region's story.

The 6 questions are listed below for your review. In case it helps trigger ideas for you, we have included some prompts, resources, and sample answers.

QUESTION #1: Does the region have a collection of natural, cultural, and historic resources that, when linked together help to tell a nationally important story?

Response Prompts:

Why are the natural, cultural, and historic resources of Appalachia Kentucky important to America?

What are your favorite natural, cultural, or historic resources in your community/region? Why would other Americans benefit from visiting those?

Resources To Help Write Your Response:

Sample Response:

The natural resources of this region played an important role in our nation’s development, from inspiring early explorers to powering industrialization, and they offer incredible recreation now. When Daniel Boone crossed the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky in 1769, he was greeted by a lush and verdant forest paradise. Mighty mountains, highlands, magnificent gorges, rivers, waterfalls, and valleys reached as far as the eye could see. Early visitors reported that the virgin hardwood forests of eastern Kentucky were the finest known to exist at that time. Today, in the region known as the First American West, visitors can still channel Daniel Boone by hiking virgin trails in places such as the Red River Gorge, or the backwoods surrounding Pine Mountain. The region offers vast outdoor recreation opportunities, such as world-class rock climbing, hiking, off roading, cycling, boating, kayaking, whitewater rafting, fishing, and waterfall viewing.

The region’s Appalachian culture and history are integral to America’s culture and history, and we are trying to preserve them for future generations. The region’s powerful spirit of adventure and resilience can be traced to the area’s early Irish, Scottish, English, and Welsh immigrants and roots. The coal-mining explosion of the early 1900s that brought people from around the world to the mountains of eastern Kentucky played an important role in America’s growth and industrialization and contributed to today’s Appalachian traditions, heritage, and culture. Colorful characters span centuries of history, including Daniel Boone; the Hatfields and McCoys, creators of the original family feud; Colonel Harland Sanders, creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken; and dozens of Bluegrass and country music stars. Year-round festivals, live performances, historic sites, and tours highlight the lives, stories, and events that shape this unique part of our country.

QUESTION #2: What makes southeastern Kentucky a nationally distinctive area, and how does the 41-county study area contribute to or exemplify a distinctive aspect of America's national heritage?

Response Prompts:

What makes our region special?

If you had a chance to tell all Americans why they should visit our region, what would you tell them?

What is distinctive about our corner of America? Is it our food? Our waterfalls? Our ATV trails? Our music? Our history?

Resources To Help Write Your Response:

QUESTION #3: What unique American stories are being told in the area and why is southeastern Kentucky the area in which it is best to tell them? 

Response Prompts:

How does your community/region fit in the landscape, history, or culture of America? Why do people need to come here to best understand that piece of America?

What unique stories about your community/region would be of interest to all Americans? Why do people to need to come here to best understand that story?

Is there an American story in your community/region that could no longer be told if a local place or tradition is not conserved?

When others tell stories about our region, do they make some mistakes (stereotypes, etc.)? What is our true story that Americans can see if they come here to visit?

QUESTION #4: Do opportunities exist for improving the quality of resources through conservation, recreation, and education?

Response Prompts:

Is there a place, tradition, or piece of history in your community/region that should be conserved, opened up for recreation, or taught about? If so, NHA designation may help.

Is there a group in your community/region that already is trying to conserve, improve access to, or educate about a local place, tradition, or piece of history? If so, NHA designation may help.

QUESTION #5: Is there an organization or number of organizations that have the financial and administrative capacity to coordinate the management of a National Heritage Area?

Sample Response:

Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, Inc. (PRIDE) has the financial and administrative capacity to coordinate management of The Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area. PRIDE is a nonprofit organization created in 1997 to coordinate an environmental cleanup initiative across the region. That required mobilizing local governments, community groups, schools, and 400,000+ volunteers. Together, the region has made tremendous progress (click here for stats), and PRIDE earned the reputation of spearheading improvements and creating partnerships. PRIDE has a spotless track record in administering more than $100 million in federal funds, both as a grantee and as the pass-through entity for grants to local governments, nonprofits, and schools for water quality, solid waste, and environmental education projects.

Building on decades of success in caring for the region’s environment, PRIDE created The Kentucky Wildlands regional tourism initiative to showcase the 41-county area's natural beauty and rich heritage to drive economic development. Through The Kentucky Wildlands, PRIDE is collaborating with state and local tourism agencies and creating connectivity throughout the region. This network of partnerships is the foundation for community management of an NHA.

QUESTION #6: Is there public support for a National Heritage Area designation? 

Response Prompts:

Why do you personally support the NHA designation?

Do you have an example of how your community/region is working together now to conserve, improve, or educate about an important place or tradition? If so, that may show that the public is ready to support a NHA designation.

Do you have an example of your community participating in the PRIDE environmental initiative or The Kentucky Wildlands tourism initiative? If so, that shows that the public supports a regional partnership, like a NHA designation.

Would your community like to see any of the benefits that NHA designation brings? (For examples of benefits, please see:

Learn About National Heritage Areas

Congress designates National Heritage Areas (NHAs) as places where natural, cultural and historic combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, NHAs are large, lived-in landscapes. They collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs. Since 1984, 55 NHAs have been designated.

The National Park Service (NPS) administers the NHA program. NPS is a partner and advisor, leaving decision-making authority in the hands of local people and organizations. NPS does not assume ownership of land inside NHAs or impose land use controls.

Some long-term benefits of NHA activities include:

  • Sustainable economic development (In neighboring West Virginia, the National Coal Heritage Area generated $207 million in economic impact and $16.8 million in tax revenue and supported 2,744 jobs in 2016.)
  • Healthy environment and people
  • Improved quality of life
  • Education and stewardship
  • Community engagement and pride


Click here to learn more about National Heritage Areas