March 31, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King, Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, and Representative Jared Golden are introducing a bipartisan, bicameral bill to designate a Downeast Maine National Heritage Area. The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins and Representative Chellie Pingree, would designate all of Hancock and Washington counties as an area with national importance, qualifying the region for additional federal investment and helping to drive economic activity to the rural Maine region. The bill specifically recognizes the contributions of Downeast Maine’s agriculture industry – including wild blueberry growers – as well as the impacts of heritage fishing and forestry.
“For much of the year, the rocky coasts of Downeast Maine greet the first rays of sunshine to reach the United States,” said Senator King. “The region literally starts America’s day, and its rugged coastline, rolling mountains and lush forests are a fundamental part of the American identity. Designating Hancock and Washington counties as a National Heritage Area will open the door for critical federal funding, spur increased tourism, and drive important economic activity to support Downeast communities and the hardworking, resilient people who call these counties home. I hope our House and Senate colleagues will recognize the incredible assets of this region and pass this bill.”
“Washington and Hancock counties are home to proud traditions in Maine’s heritage industries, from growing blueberries, to lobstering, to logging,” said Rep. Golden. “Designating these counties as National Heritage Areas would honor these traditions and help bolster the economy in these rural communities, create jobs, and bring more investment to the region. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to celebrate and support this historic region.”
“From the majestic splendor of Acadia National Park—one of the crown jewels of the National Park System that showcases the stunning beauty of our rugged coastline—to the picturesque blueberry barrens, lakes, woods, and streams that define the landscape, Downeast Maine is a truly special part of the world. For generations, hardworking Mainers have been a part of the fabric of the region and have contributed to Maine’s economy and heritage through the lobster, agriculture, and logging industries,” said Senator Collins. “This legislation will help preserve the unique character of Eastern Maine while also helping to attract investments and create new job opportunities in Hancock and Washington counties.”
“It’s hard to believe that one of the most scenic and nature-friendly states in the country doesn’t have a National Heritage Area designated by Congress. It’s past time to change that,” said Rep. Pingree. “Downeast Maine is a gorgeous, coastal area that’s rich in maritime history and is a haven for Mainers and visiting nature lovers. As a National Heritage Area, Washington and Hancock counties would be federally recognized as land that is culturally, environmentally, and historically important, ensuring conservation with federal resources. This designation will only further Downeast Maine’s vital role in our state’s tourism economy, support the Downeast communities, and most importantly, protect this special piece of Maine.”
“The people of Downeast Maine are fiercely proud of their heritage, motivated to strengthen their economy, and are committed to developing quality opportunities that highlight local history and enable communities to build upon it,” said Crystal Hitchings, Director of Community Infrastructure at Sunrise County Economic Council. “Designation as a National Heritage Area will provide more resources to support coordinated efforts in heritage preservation, tourism, and economic initiatives that matter locally. If passed, this will give organizations and communities more tools to proactively support development that reflects our important Downeast values and way of life.”
National Heritage Areas are designations from Congress where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes where communities collaborate with the National Park Service to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and economies. These areas qualify for additional federal funding, and work through public-private partnerships to support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, new and traditional industries, and educational projects. Leveraging funds and long-term support for projects, these partnerships foster pride of place and an enduring stewardship. There are currently 55 National Heritage Areas across the country.