Reed, Katko, Gibson, Stefanik lead legislative effort to declare Finger Lakes a National Heritage Area

Bipartisan legislation recently introduced by U.S. Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) would declare the Finger Lakes a National Heritage Area (NHA).

Under the bill, H.R. 5353, the Department of the Interior would be directed to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating the Finger Lakes an NHA to protect the region and help promote it as a tourist destination.

“We care about protecting and preserving our lakes for future generations,” Reed said. “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. We’d also like to thank our colleagues for their support of this bill.”

The Finger Lakes encompass 14 counties and total 650 miles of shoreline in western and central New York. The region’s tourism industry generates $2.8 billion per year and supports 50,000 jobs.

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

Stefanik said that the Finger Lakes are an “important and unique region” while voicing support for the bill.

“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,” Stefanik said. “I commend my colleagues’ effort on this important initiative.”

Gibson called the Finger Lakes a “national treasure” and said that the region includes places that shaped American history and inspired artists and thinkers.

“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,” Gibson said. “I am proud to join my colleagues from the New York Delegation in advocating for this designation.”

U.S. Reps. Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and Joe Crowley (D-NY) joined Reed, Katko, Gibson and Slaughter in offering the bill.

Cynthia Kimble, the president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, said that the prospect of the Finger Lakes being designated an NHA was an exciting development for the region.

“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,” Kimble said.

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