Baker, Lt. Gov. Landrieu hail passage of Atchafalaya National Heritage Area bill -- 09/29/2006
Office of Lieutenant GovernorFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2006
Baker, Lt. Gov. Landrieu hail passage of Atchafalaya National Heritage Area bill
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate today passed legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, and pushed by Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, D-La., to establish Louisiana's Atchafalaya Trace as a National Heritage Area. The bill, which passed the House on July 24, authorizes as much $10 million over fifteen years for preservation, conservation, education, and cultural efforts for this high-priority area of the state, and includes amendments by Baker that expand the area to include Ascension Parish and provide for an unprecedented waiver of the state funding match.
The bill now heads to the President's desk to be signed into law.
"I'm thrilled that we were able to achieve federal recognition of the Atchafalaya Basin as the national treasure that it is, as well as the funding necessary to help preserve it as a unique natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resource in Louisiana," Baker said.
"The passage of this legislation marks another milestone in our effort to attract visitors to Louisiana and protect our cultural assets," Landrieu said. "It has been a long haul, but the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is a victory for our state thanks to the dedication of Congressman Baker, Senator Landrieu, our Congressional Delegation and countless individuals."
The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area comprises fourteen parishes in and around the Atchafalaya Basin in south-central Lousiana: Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Concordia, East Baton Rouge, Iberia, Iberville, Lafayette, Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and West Baton Rouge.
The Atchafalaya River serves as a major tributary of the Mississippi and Red rivers, and runs through a swampy wetlands called the Atchafalaya Basin, which is about twenty miles in width and one hundred and fifty miles in length. The Atchafalya Basin is rich with wildlife, and since the eighteenth century, Cajun fishermen and trappers have depended on the basin and river for their livelihoods and culture.
According to the National Park Service, a "National Heritage Area" is a place designated by the United States Congress where natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. National Heritage Areas are a strategy that encourages residents, government agencies, non-profit groups and private partners to plan collaboratively and implement programs and projects that recognize, preserve and celebrate many of America's defining landscapes.
The legislation designates the Atchafalaya Trace Commission as the local coordinating entity of the Heritage Area. In 1997, the Atchafalaya Trace Commission was created by the Louisiana Legislature and was charged with planning and managing the Atchafalaya Heritage Area to help local communities save important cultural and natural resources.
The legislation also establishes a procedure for the voluntary inclusion of private property in the Heritage Area, to balance both public and private interests in such a diverse natural and cultural area.