OLR Research Report

January 22, 2008




By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst

You asked about federal funding for National Heritage Areas and programs that states have implemented to help fund these programs.


Congress may designate as National Heritage areas those places whose geography and natural resources combine with patterns of human activity to form a distinct landscape. There are currently 37 such Congressionally-designated areas.

Unlike a national park, national heritage areas are locally managed, and can include public and private land. The National Park Service helps to plan and implement heritage area activities.

According to the nonprofit Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA), total funding for the program increased from $13.4 million to $15.5 million for federal FY 2008 under legislation President Bush signed on Dec. 26, 2007 (HR 2764). Of that amount, $1 million will go to the National Park Service for administrative costs, and $150,000 will go to each of 10 newly designated national heritage areas (for a total of $1.5 million) that were not funded in 2007. The remaining money will be divided among the previously designated national heritage areas. According to ANHA, each of the previously designated national heritage areas will receive about the same amount of funding it received in 2007.

Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania are among the states that have significant heritage area programs. New York and Pennsylvania have state heritage areas, as well as national heritage areas. New York funds its state heritage areas, but not it national heritage areas, from its Environmental Protection Fund. It may, however, provide extra assistance to projects within national heritage areas. Pennsylvania provides annual management grants to both its state and national heritage areas. Maryland does not have any national heritage areas. We describe these programs briefly below.


In 1996, Maryland adopted the Heritage Preservation and Tourism Areas bill (HB 1), designed to promote historic preservation and areas of natural beauty to stimulate economic development through tourism.

The bill created the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, an independent government agency, to oversee implementation of the program. The program involves a two-stage competitive process.

A community must first apply to become a Recognized Heritage Area. Once recognized, it becomes eligible for matching state grant funds to prepare a detailed management plan. If the plan is approved, the authority designates it a Certified Heritage Area (CHA), or heritage enterprise zone. CHA benefits include eligibility for special project grants and loan assistance for acquisition, development, public interpretation, and programming as well as tax incentives to rehabilitate non-designated historic buildings and non-historic buildings actively used in tourism. In addition, state agencies must coordinate their activities with CHAs to assure compatibility with their management plans. At the end of 2006, Maryland had 11 certified and two recognized state heritage areas. More information about the two-stage application process is available on-line at

In 2006, the Maryland general assembly increased the amount of annual funding for the authority from $1 million to $3 million. By law, up to 10% of this amount may pay the authority's operating expenses. We have attached the authority's 2006 annual report, which also is available on-line at


New York offers grants for projects in New York state designated heritage areas. The grants may be used to preserve, rehabilitate, or restore lands, waters, or structures identified in a state-approved management plan. The state ranks applications according to certain criteria. More information on the criteria is available on-line at

Grants are available to municipalities, state agencies, public benefit corporations, public authorities, and nonprofit corporations that own the property. According to heritage program area coordinator Lucy Breyer, of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, New York has 20 state designated heritage areas, not including three national heritage areas. Funding from the state's Environmental Protection Fund varies from year to year, with between 6 and 12 projects being funded annually. Breyer said that $1.7 million in grants was awarded to heritage area programs during 2006 and 2007. These ranged from a $13,000 grant for a visitors' center in Wayne County to $350,000 to build a carousel at New York City's Battery Park. This grant program applies only to state heritage areas, although Breyer says the state may provide extra assistance to projects within national heritage areas.


The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) administers the Pennsylvania Heritage Areas Program (PHAP), whose goal is to conserve, develop and promote the state's heritage through (1) economic development, (2) partnerships, (3) cultural conservation, (4) recreation and open space, and (5) education and interpretation. DCNR encourages regional planning and public and private involvement. Regions designated as state heritage areas are eligible to receive annual PHAP funding. Pennsylvania now has 12 heritage areas, five of which are also national heritage areas.

Application Process

PHAP uses a two-step application process. First, a region must complete a feasibility study approved by DCNR and other state agencies. The region is then termed a state Heritage Planning Area, eligible to apply for a management action plan grant. Once the management action plan is completed and approved, the region is designated a state Heritage Area.


PHAP funds can be used for six types of projects, including the feasibility study and management action plan. Funding also can be used for (1) special purpose studies, (2) implementation projects, (3) early implementation projects, and (4) management grants. Table 1, below, indicates the maximum grant amount for each project type. Information for Table 1, as well as other PHAP information, comes from the 2006 Heritage Areas Program Manual, available on-line at

Table 1: Maximum PHAP Grant Amounts

Project Type

Maximum Grant Amount

Feasibility Study


Management Action Plan


Special Purpose Study


Implementation Project


Early Implementation Project


Management Grants


According to DCNR, there is currently about $2.9 million for PHAP. About $1.9 million of that amount is from an annual state appropriation; the remainder is from Pennsylvania's “Growing Greener” program. PHAP management grants for each of the 12 heritage areas, including the federal heritage areas, account for $1.2 million of the $2.9 million; the remainder is used for the various projects.