Congressman Courtney and Senator Murphy Lead Bicameral Introduction of Legislation to Save the Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Areas
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) led the bicameral introduction of legislation to save the Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area through a 15-year reauthorization. In the House, Courtney was joined by original co-sponsors Reps. John Larson (CT-02), Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Richie Neal (MA-01). This reauthorization is critical—without it, these two National Heritage Areas would lose important federal support through the National Park Service this year.
“The Last Green Valley has always been a jewel of natural preservation and conservation in eastern Connecticut, and right now their work is more valuable than ever,” said Congressman Courtney. “The need for safe, open spaces is at an all-time high—everything from classrooms to business conferences are looking to move outside when possible, and people have been flocking to the trails and natural settings that places like the Last Green Valley have to offer. Heritage areas aren’t just great investments for keeping our land open and green, they also create jobs, establish places people want to travel to and visit, and they’re a smart long-term economic investment. Connecticut knows that investments in our open spaces provide an enormous value for taxpayers, and I’m glad to be joined by my colleagues in pushing forward to ensure that national heritage areas like the Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Heritage Area receive our continued support.”
“Connecticut is fortunate to have unique and abundant green spaces, and it is critical that we work to protect them. These designations have been a resounding success, and I thank Rep. Courtney and Senator Murphy for their work to ensure that they are made permanent,” said Larson.
“The protection of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area is critical to the Fifth District’s environment, history, and economy,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “This nationally recognized historic region supports artists, historians, conservationists, and enriches local economies by supporting tourism and partnering with local organizations. The preservation of this area has heightened importance. As Connecticut residents seek refuge in nature amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, public lands like the upper Housatonic Valley Heritage Area are crucial to ensure all communities have access to outdoor spaces. Our legislation is essential to the continuation of Connecticut’s cultural legacy and ecosystems.”
“The Last Green Valley is grateful for Representative Courtney’s support of our National Heritage Corridor,” said Lois Bruinooge, Executive Director of the Last Green Valley. “We are able to leverage a small federal investment into many more dollars of benefit to help spur economic development post-pandemic. Now more than ever, we realize The Last Green Valley’s wide open spaces are critical to our health and well-being. With Representative Courtney’s help, this bill will allow us to continue our work conserving natural and historic resources uninterrupted.”
In the Senate, Senator Murphy was joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Senator Ed Markey (MA) as original co-sponsors.
The Last Green Valley encompasses 35 towns stretching from eastern Connecticut to Massachusetts, with 26 towns in Connecticut. The Last Green Valley was first designated as a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 1994 because of the region’s unique natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources. The area is still 84% forest and farm and is the last stretch of dark night sky in the coastal sprawl between Boston and Washington, D.C.\
The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area includes 29 towns, stretching 964 square miles from western Connecticut to Massachusetts along the Housatonic River watershed. The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area was first designated as a National Heritage Area by Congress in 2006 to preserve natural and historical resources, and to improve the economy in the area. There are over 50 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the heritage area.
Last year, Rep. Courtney led a coalition of New England Representatives in introducing similar legislation to save The Last Green Valley. Just recently, on February 26th, Reps. Courtney, Hayes, and Neal also voted to pass H.R. 803, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. The House-passed bill would provide crucial support for the Last Green Valley—it included an amendment supported by Rep. Courtney that would provide a 15-year reauthorization for all of America’s National Heritage Areas, ensuring that protected open spaces like The Last Green Valley will have the support they need to operate effectively and continue conservation.