A lands bill signed by President Donald Trump includes a provision authored by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand study whether the Finger Lakes region should be designated as a national heritage area.
Gillibrand's legislation was added to the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. The federal natural resources bill was named in honor of Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress who died in February.
The House and Senate passed the lands package in February.
The bill sponsored by Gillibrand, the Finger Lakes Heritage Area Study Act, requires the National Park Service to study whether the 14-county region should be designated as a national heritage area.
The feasibility study will cover Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates counties.
The National Park Service defines a national heritage area as a location "where natural, cultural and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape."
There are 49 national heritage areas. Four are 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.
"I'm thrilled that we can finally begin the process of designating the Finger Lakes region as a national heritage area," Gillibrand said in a statement. "The Finger Lakes region is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places in our state. A national heritage area designation would encourage more people from all over the country to visit the Finger Lakes region and see for themselves how beautiful the area is."
Gillibrand explained that the designation could boost the tourism industry, which is already a thriving sector in the regional economy.
The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance reported that tourism in the 14-county region generated more than $3 billion in business and supported 58,242 jobs in 2017.
There are hundreds of popular attractions in the region, including more than 400 historic sites and landmarks, 135 museums and 100 wineries.
"It comes as no surprise to me or anyone who visits this beautiful part of our state the Finger Lakes region deserves to go through this process and be deemed as a federally recognized national heritage area, particularly as we have heard the overwhelming support from our key stakeholders," said Cynthia Kimble, president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.
There is no timetable for when the National Park Service will commence the study. However, the language in the law requires that a report outlining the findings and any recommendations from the interior security should be submitted to the relevant House and Senate committees "not later than three years after" federal funding is first provided for the study.