Congressman Jimmy Panetta announced he introduced the Monterey Bay National Heritage Area Study Act, directing the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with relevant state, local, and Tribal entities, to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties as a National Heritage Area, specifically the Monterey Bay National Heritage Area.
“On the central coast of California, we not only appreciate, but we also cherish our region’s rich history, culture, and environment,” said Congressman Panetta. “My Monterey Bay National Heritage Area Study Act initiates the process of studying and ultimately establishing the Monterey Bay National Heritage Area in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties. Ultimately, such a designation will help secure additional resources and protections for our communities and ensure that future generations can continue to be enlightened and enriched by our home on the Central Coast.”
According to the press release, National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. They leverage federal funds to create jobs, generate revenue for local governments, and sustain local communities through revitalization and heritage tourism.
There are 55 National Heritage Areas throughout the country, each created through individual federal law. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, passed in 2019, is the only one in California. According to the California Delta Protection Commission records, the designation of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, from the introduction of legislation to its adoption, was an eight-year process (2011-2019).
Panetta said the Monterey Bay National Heritage Area Study Act is the first piece of a multi-step, community-driven process that involves securing and completing an initial feasibility study, enacting legislation to designate the area, and designating a local coordinating entity to develop and implement a plan for managing the areas in collaborating with partners.
“As confirmed by the Department of Interior’s National Park Service, National Heritage Area designations do not impact individual property or water rights in any way, nor do they restrict local land use designations, land ownership, or hunting and fishing within the designated heritage area,” The release stated.