WASHINGTON, DC (WIAT) — Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) introduced legislation in the Senate to establish the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area on May 13.
The bill – titled the “Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Act” – would authorize 19 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt Region as a National Heritage Area (NHA) which would allow federal funding to be directed to the designated region over the span of 15 years.
NHAs are partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and local entities to protect and support conservation and public access. Currently, the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is the only NHA in the state.
“Designating Alabama’s Black Belt region as a National Heritage Area will not only help generate tourism and economic activity in the area, but it will also give the public a greater understanding of the natural, historical, and cultural assets our state has to offer,” said Senator Shelby in a press release. “This legislation has the potential to impact several future generations and is an important step toward promoting and preserving the diverse resources that exist throughout the Black Belt’s 19 counties.”
“Alabama’s Black Belt region played a central role in both the history of our great state and our country,” said Senator Tuberville in the release. “We cannot lose sight of the Black Belt’s significant impact in the civil rights movement and the fact that this area is home to some of our state’s most celebrated cultural figures. This designation will ensure we can protect this region’s historical significance for generations to come.”
The intended heritage area includes the following counties: Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox. The legislation names the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama (UWA) as the local management entity. The designation of a local entity, ensures its ability to address the interests and needs of those in the surrounding communities.
Alabama Representatives Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala), Mo Brooks (R-Ala), Jerry Carl (R-Ala) and Barry Moore (R-Ala) are expected to introduce a companion bill this week in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senator Shelby introduced similar legislation during the 113th Congress and the 116th Congress.