The Finger Lakes region is closer to receiving a major national designation.
The National Resources Management Act passed by the U.S. Senate this week includes language from a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., authored legislation to study whether the Finger Lakes region should be designated as a national heritage area.
Under Gillibrand's proposal, the National Park Service would conduct a study in 14 counties — Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates — to determine whether the region should receive national heritage area status.
A national heritage area, according to the National Park Service, is a place "where natural, cultural and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape." National heritage areas aren't national park units.
There are 49 national heritage areas, including four in New York: Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
Gillibrand, who first introduced the bill in 2015 to study whether to designate the Finger Lakes region as a national heritage area, is hopeful the House will act on the bipartisan land package approved by the Senate.
"The Finger Lakes region is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in our state, and it is one of our country's great historical and cultural treasures," Gillibrand said. "A national heritage area designation would help further conserve and protect the region's natural resources and attract even more people from all over the world to the Finger Lakes."
A national heritage area designation could provide an economic boost to the Finger Lakes region, which is already a major tourism draw.
The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, citing data from 2017, reported that tourism generates more than $3 billion in business and supports 58,242 jobs.
The 14-county Finger Lakes region has more than 400 registered historic sites, 300 bed and breakfast facilities, 135 museums, 100 wineries, 80 art galleries and 14 professional theater companies.
The region is home to the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn and the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.
Cynthia Kimble, president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, lauded Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, who sponsors the House bill, for supporting the feasibility study.
"Given our rich background, national resources and historical connection to the nation's growth, we are hopeful that the next step will be the designation of the Finger Lakes as a national heritage area," Kimble said.