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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Representing the 25th District of New York

Bipartisan Coalition Introduces Legislation to Protect the Finger Lakes

May 27, 2016
Press Release
Bill would help promote tourism and protect the region for future generations

WASHINGTON, DC - In a bipartisan effort to recognize the natural beauty and value of the Finger Lakes, Reps. Tom Reed (NY-23), John Katko (NY-24), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Chris Gibson (NY-19), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20) and Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14) today introduced legislation to designate the region as a National Heritage Area (NHA). This bill directs the Department of the Interior to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating the Finger Lakes an NHA, which would increase the ability for the community to promote the lakes and draw more tourists and businesses to the area, while also protecting the region for generations to come.

“We care about protecting and preserving our lakes for future generations. They are an invaluable natural resource that bolsters our local economy, providing jobs and recreation for all. It’s only right that we come together and recognize our rich regional heritage,” said Reed.  “We’d also like to thank our colleagues for their support of this bill.”

"The Finger Lakes is a region rich in history.  With tourism on the rise, it is poised to become a prime region for economic development," said Rep. John Katko (NY-24). "Together with my colleagues Reps. Reed and Slaughter, I'm proud to join in the introduction of this legislation to preserve and protect the Finger Lakes," said Rep. Katko.

“The Finger Lakes region is critical to our economy and is home to countless historically significant sites, from the Underground Railroad to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation so we can help promote tourism, support tens of thousands of jobs, and maintain this important heritage for future generations,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-25). 

“The Finger Lakes are an important and unique region and I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation,” said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). “By designating the Finger Lakes as a National Heritage Area, we can help the region flourish while protecting this ecological treasure for generations to come. I commend my colleagues’ effort on this important initiative.”

“The Finger Lakes are national treasures—places that shaped American history and inspired some our most important artists and thinkers,” said Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). “Having spent considerable time in this region, I know how important it is to safeguard its scenic and cultural resources and bring more people into contact with its farms, historic sites, and recreational opportunities. I am proud to join my colleagues from the New York Delegation in advocating for this designation.”

"Strengthening awareness of our nation's rich history boosts jobs, drives economic activity, and preserves previous generations of vibrant culture for future ones to remember. I thank Representatives Slaughter, Reed and Katko for their work to enhance all that New York State has to offer in the way National Heritage Areas, and I will continue to work as co-chair of the Congressional National Heritage Area Caucus to promote and protect these areas across the country,” said Rep. Paul D. Tonko (NY-20).

“The Finger Lakes are a New York treasure and it is important that we do everything possible to preserve the history and natural beauty of this region for generations to come,”  said Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14). “This designation would both enhance the economic opportunity of the region while going a long way to conserve the scenic landscape and resources, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort.”

Created by Congress, National Heritage Areas must have a nationally unique natural, cultural, historic, or scenic resource and tell a unique story about the United States. Unlike National Parks, National Heritage Areas are managed locally either by state governments, non-profits, or private corporations. There are 49 NHA’s nationwide, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, a non-profit based in Penn Yan, New York, has been a staunch advocate of the designation process.

“This news is very exciting for the Finger Lakes tourism region! It is the first step to having the Finger Lakes recognized on the National level along with other national treasures that also hold wonderful historic landmarks, natural wonders and simply stunning landscapes.  Recognition by the National Park service for the Finger Lakes as a National Heritage Area will certainly work to enhance tourism in the region which is already a $2.9 billion industry,” said Cynthia Kimble, President of Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.

The Finger Lakes stretch over 14 counties and 650 miles of shoreline throughout Western and Central New York, and are rich in natural beauty with bountiful resources for both tourism and commerce. There are over 400 registered historic sites and landmarks, 135 museums, and numerous art galleries, theater companies, and beds and breakfasts. The Finger Lakes provide the area with a $2.8 billion tourism industry that supports over 50,000 jobs.