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Rep. Courtney Leads New England Coalition in Introducing Legislation to Save the Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Areas

February 26, 2020
Press Release

Today, Representatives Joe Courtney (CT-02), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), and Richard Neal (MA-01) introduced legislation to save the Last Green Valley Heritage Corridor and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area through a 15-year reauthorization. Without this critical reauthorization, these two National Heritage Areas would lose important federal support through the National Park Service.


“The Last Green Valley is an incredible asset to eastern Connecticut and to all of our region,” said Congressman Courtney. “Heritage areas create jobs, establish destinations that people want to visit and vacation to, and are a smart investment in both the economy and the natural environment. Support from the federal government is what provides these areas with the foundation needed to preserve and protect these natural spaces, but the work just starts there—from that federal support, these National Heritage Areas leverage countless dollars and volunteer hours to promote the environment and identity of our region. Connecticut and Massachusetts know that investments in our open spaces provide an enormous value for taxpayers, and we’ll keep fighting to ensure that national heritage areas like the Last Green Valley and Upper Housatonic Heritage Area receive our support.”


“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, and conservationists, and enriches local economies by supporting tourism and partnering with local organizations. Our legislation is essential to the continuation of Connecticut’s cultural legacy and ecosystems.”


“I have been a enthusiastic supporter of the National Heritage Corridors throughout New England for many years. In my opinion, they successfully bring together the many natural, cultural and recreational resources in our region. They are local treasures that are enjoyed by residents and visitors year-round.  I am pleased to join my colleagues co-sponsoring legislation to help save the Last Green Valley and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area. These pristine sites in western Massachusetts and Connecticut preserve our heritage and merit continued federal support,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.


“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 while spurring economic development and conserving our historic and natural resources. With Representative Courtney’s help, this bill will allow us to continue our work uninterrupted.”


“The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area has a 15-year track record of working with regional organizations to strengthen the local economy, support historic preservation, promote the culture of the area, and to bolster natural resource conservation efforts,” said Dan Bolognani, Executive Director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area. “Our collaborative efforts with existing organizations and municipalities has resulted in many impactful regional projects coming to fruition. A recent economic impact study has shown that the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area annually generates $169.9 million in economic impact, supports 1,944 jobs, and generates $15.0 million in tax revenue. The Board of Trustees for Housatonic Heritage are grateful for Rep. Courtney’s leadership to enable us to continue this essential work, well into the future.”


Representatives Courtney, Hayes, and Neal were joined in their efforts by their colleagues in the U.S. Senate. Senator Chris Murphy (CT) drafted and introduced legislation to reauthorize the Last Green Valley and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, and was joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Senator Ed Markey (MA).


The Last Green Valley encompasses 35 towns stretching from eastern Connecticut to Massachusetts. In northeastern Connecticut alone, the Last Green Valley spans 1,100 square miles and encompasses 26 towns. 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 77% 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.


Reps. Courtney, Hayes, and Neal are all cosponsors of H.R. 1049, the National Heritage Area Act of 2019, which would reauthorize all 45 National Heritage Areas nationwide for 20 years.