House-Passed Bill Would Provide The Last Green Valley with Historic 15-Year Reauthorization
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) voted to pass the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803). The legislation is a package of eight bills, each of which received bipartisan votes of support in the previous 116th Congress. H.R. 803 provides approximately 1.5 million acres of public land with new permanent and lasting protections, protects more than 1.2 million acres of public land from new oil and gas mining claims, and incorporates more than 1,200 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (NWSRS). The bill passed the House today with bipartisan support by a vote of 227-200.
H.R. 803 also includes historic new support for The Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Areas in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and for others across the country. An amendment included in the bill and supported by Rep. Courtney provides 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 efforts. Without this bill, The Last Green Valley and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Areas’ authorizations are set to expire this year in 2021. In 2020, Courtney led a coalition New England representatives in introducing similar legislation to save The Last Green Valley, and H.R. 803 would follow through on that effort.
“The Last Green Valley is an important asset to eastern Connecticut, and right now their work is incredibly valuable,” said Congressman Courtney. “Heritage areas create jobs, establish destinations that people want to visit, and they’re a smart economic investment especially now while the need for safe, open spaces is at an all-time high. Federal support is what provides these areas with the foundation they need to protect natural spaces, and without the House’s reauthorization that support is set to expire this year. Connecticut knows that these investments provide real value for taxpayers—National Heritage Areas leverage dollars and countless volunteer hours to promote the environment and identity of our region, and they’ve been working to provide new alternatives for all sort of commercial and recreational activities during the pandemic. I’m proud to advance this bill that will help protect our region’s natural heritage for another fifteen years, and I encourage the Senate to follow our lead.”
“It’s exciting to start the year off with such a major development for The Last Green Valley—Representative Courtney has always been in our corner, and we’re grateful for his work to advance the House’s new support for National Heritage Areas like ours and around the country,” said Lois Bruinooge, Executive Director of The Last Green Valley. “Investing in our open spaces is more important than ever, and The Last Green Valley has a big role to play in helping to drive our region’s economic recovery post-pandemic. From classrooms, to business conferences, to community health and recreation activities, people are looking to bring events outside right now, and there’s a huge appetite for getting out to enjoy green, open spaces. The Last Green Valley is where Connecticut turns for open spaces, and we’re open for business. The new support authorized by the House under the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act would help keep our conservation efforts going strong for another fifteen years, and we hope that the Senate will vote to advance the House’s bill.”
Courtney has long supported conservation efforts in eastern Connecticut and the region—from The Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Areas, to Plum Island, to the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed, and more. In 2020, Courtney led a coalition of New England representatives in introducing legislation to save The Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Areas through a 15-year reauthorization, similar to the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act.
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.