Heritage areas important to state economy
Pennsylvania has five national heritage areas that are very important to their regional economies, three more than in any other state, yet the state congressional delegation is not yet unified in an effort to ensure their ongoing eligibility for federal funding.
The areas coherently and comprehensively combine a region's historical, educational, cultural and natural resources, as in the Lackawanna Heritage Valley's work in historical conservation, increasing access to natural and historical resources and contributing to economic development.
Federal authorization for the Lackawanna Heritage Valley, along with the Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Corridor and the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area expired at the close of 2012 but has been maintained under a one-year "continuing resolution" that will expire with this fiscal year. Authorization for the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area will expire at the close of 2015. The fifth heritage area in the state, centered on the Oil City area, would not face reauthorization for several years beyond that.
Sen. Robert P. Casey and Rep. Matt Cartwright, Democrats from Lackawanna County, and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Western Pennsylvania, have introduced bills in both houses to reauthorize the heritage valleys. (Three of the state's heritage areas, Lackawanna, D&L and Schuylkill, happen to be partially or completely within Mr. Cartwright's 17th Congressional District.) Bipartisan groups of senators and representatives from other states, including New York and Iowa, have done likewise regarding their heritage areas.
U.S. Reps. Tom Marino and Lou Barletta, Republicans who represent Northeast Pennsylvania along with Mr. Cartwright, should sign on as cosponsors of the legislation to help benefit the regional economy as a whole.
Likewise, Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey should join Mr. Casey in sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.
The legislation is a chance not only to preserve important aspects of state history, but an historic opportunity for cross-aisle solidarity among members of the state congressional delegation to preserve and promote Pennsylvania history, culture and economic development.