Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area Feasibility Study

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Welcome to the Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area Feasibility Study project website. The National Park Service will use this website to display public information throughout the course of this study. Meeting dates and locations will be posted here, along with project updates.

The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting a study to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating a part of southeastern Kentucky as the Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area. The study was authorized by Congress and directs the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to evaluate the area for potential designation as a National Heritage Area (NHA).

Working collaboratively with local stakeholders, subject-matter experts, and the general public, among others, the study team will evaluate the level of widespread public support for an NHA designation and a commitment from key constituents who would have the ability to manage the National Heritage Area. At the completion of the study, the findings and any recommendations will be submitted to Congress for consideration.

A National Heritage Area is a place designated by Congress where natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representative of the national experience through physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved in them. Continued use of National Heritage Areas by people whose traditions helped to shape the landscape enhances their significance. They are lived-in landscapes in which NHA entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.

The National Park Service provides technical, planning, and limited financial assistance to National Heritage Areas. The National Park Service is a partner and advisor, leaving decision-making authority in the hands of local people and organizations. Currently, there are 55 designated National Heritage Areas in 34 states across the country.

Purpose of the Study

A feasibility study determines and documents whether the landscape has the distinctive resources associated with a nationally important story and the local capacity necessary for designation as a National Heritage Area. The feasibility study process explores a number of important factors that inform whether national designation is the best way to achieve a region's conservation, education, recreation, and economic development goals. The study also provides Congress with information regarding the appropriateness of designating the landscape as a National Heritage Area.

Congress has directed that the Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area study include evaluation of the following counties: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Elliott, Floyd, Green, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lincoln, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Metcalfe, Monroe, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Wayne, Whitely, and Wolfe, as well as any other areas of the state with heritage aspects similar to those counties and that are adjacent to or in the vicinity of those areas.

Studies are typically completed within three years. Upon completion, a report will be submitted to Congress describing the findings of the study with recommendations from the Secretary of the Interior. The study began in April 2020 and is currently in its first year. For more information on National Heritage Areas.

We encourage you to learn more about the study process and share your ideas. Stay updated by visiting this website.

Contact Information

Elisa Kunz
National Heritage Areas Coordinator
National Park Service- Southeast Regional Office

Julie Bell
Project Manager
National Park Service- Denver Service Center