National Park Service: Comments on Provisions of S. 2543, a Bill to Establish a Federal Program and Criteria for National Heritage Areas

GAO-04-914T Published: Jun 24, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 2004.
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Highlights

The Congress has established, or "designated," 24 national heritage areas to recognize the value of their local traditions, history, and resources to the nation's heritage. These areas, including public and private lands, receive funds and assistance through cooperative agreements with the National Park Service, which has no formal program for them. They also receive funds from other agencies and nonfederal sources, and are managed by local entities. Growing interest in new areas has raised concerns about rising federal costs and the risk of limits on private land use. GAO was asked to comment on how provisions of S. 2543 might affect issues identified in GAO's March 2004 testimony addressing the process for (1) designating heritage areas, (2) determining the amount of federal funding to these areas, (3) overseeing areas' activities and use of federal funds, and (4) determining the effects, if any, they have on private property rights.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To ensure greater accountability for the use of federal funds, the Congress may wish to consider amending S. 2543 by adding provisions directing the Secretary to (1) review heritage areas' annual financial reports to ensure that the agency has a full accounting of heritage area funds from all federal sources, and (2) develop results-oriented performance goals and measures for the Park Service's overall heritage area program.
Closed – Not Implemented
A series of bills nearly identical to S. 2543 have since been introduced, but they have not included the provisions recommended by GAO and none of these bills has been passed.

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