Atchafalaya National Heritage Area reauthorized in federal legislation

Staff Report

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser and the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area recently announced its reauthorization for the next 15 years with the signing of the National Heritages Act.

The act reauthorizes the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area to continue work until 2037. The National Heritages Act replaces a patchwork of individual authorizations with a program that creates clear criteria for designation and accountability, fiscal stability through a 15-year renewal of the program, and a commitment to protect private property rights.

The National Heritages Act has reauthorized the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area to continue work until 2037. It enables the area to expand technical support and grants for cultural, natural, and recreational resource promotion and preservation.

The act additionally enables the ANHA to expand technical support and grants for cultural, natural, and recreational resource promotion and preservation. 

“There is no other place in the world like the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. It is among the most culturally rich and ecologically varied regions in the United States, home to the widely recognized Cajun culture as well as a diverse population of European, African, Caribbean and Native-American descent,” Nungesser said. “It truly is America’s Foreign Country.

“This reauthorization will strengthen the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area’s mission to preserve such an import part of our state’s heritage for many years to come.”

Since its initial authorization in 2006, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area has awarded nearly 200 grants totaling more than $1 million.

The ANHA has directly leveraged approximately $6 million in matching funds over the life of the program, which is nearly a 3:1 match. With reauthorization, the ANHA will expand staff to offer more technical support and resources for cultural and conservation organizations.

“We’re ecstatic to have long-term reauthorization for the ANHA program. This longevity gives us the opportunity to dream big about how we can best support the communities and organizations whose cultural and natural resources make our home so special,” ANHA Executive Director Justin Lemoine said. “We’ve already begun development of our small community technical assistance program to complement our grants programs.

“This new technical assistance will allow us to help our vibrant small communities capitalize on their natural and cultural resources as economic development catalysts while preserving what makes them a significant part of the Atchafalaya story,” he said.

The 55 National Heritage Areas around the country are cost-effective, grass roots organizations promoting economic development through historic preservation and natural resource conservation.

A $29 million annual investment for National Heritage Areas through the National Park Service results in an additional $5.50 of local, state, and private funding for every federal dollar.

With the support of the Louisiana Delegation, Rep. Garret Graves and Sen. Bill Cassidy introduced individual reauthorization in 2021 for the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.

“The Atchafalaya Basin is one of the jewels of our state. This new law preserves the unique history and culture of the Atchafalaya region, creates jobs, and keeps the basin healthy for all to enjoy,” Cassidy said.

“The Heritage Area designation helps to highlight and improve the stewardship of the natural resources, culture, and history of this important region,” Graves said.

The National Heritage Area program is part of the National Park Service. NHAs are designated by Congress as areas that tell nationally significant stories through natural, cultural and historic resources. Designated in 2006, the mission of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is to enhance the identity of our unique American landscape by preserving and promoting our heritage and by fostering progress for local champions that create authentic, powerful connections between people, culture, and the environment.