Teaming up again to advocate for progress in Eastern Kentucky, Congressman Hal Rogers and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed companion bills on Thursday in the House and Senate to begin the federal process to designate Southern and Eastern Kentucky as the Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area. The legislation comes on the heels of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE's grant award from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) earlier this year to brand the region, famously explored by Daniel Boone, as the Kentucky Wildlands. The Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area Study Act directs the Secretary of the Interior to complete a study to determine whether the region meets the requirements for a National Heritage Area designation.

"Kentucky's Appalachian region is richly blessed with a thriving wilderness that first captivated one of the nation's most prominent frontiersmen, Daniel Boone. This new designation could open the door for new tourism opportunities and additional funding to help preserve and promote our historic rugged hillsides, lakes and streams," said Congressman Rogers, who launched PRIDE in 1997. "Over the last 20 years, PRIDE has led the way for environmental education and monumental cleanup events across the region. Thanks to thousands of PRIDE volunteers, our region is beautiful and inviting once again, paving the way for more visitors and tourism opportunities in the mountains."

“I’m proud to once again work with Congressman Rogers to tap into the great potential of Eastern and Southern Kentucky,” said Senate Majority Leader McConnell. “The scenic beauty of Kentucky’s wilderness is a link to our Commonwealth’s rich heritage and a key to our bright future. Preserving the traditions of communities throughout this region as our state’s first National Heritage Area can bring both tourism and economic opportunity. I’m grateful to all those in Kentucky who are taking part in this important effort to promote Appalachia’s unique culture.”

As a National Heritage Area, the region would receive technical assistance and federal funding through a partnership with the National Park Service.

"This is an exciting opportunity for Southern and Eastern Kentucky. The designation of National Heritage Areas has proven to have an incredible economic impact directly related to tourism," said Tammie Nazario, President/CEO of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE. "The National Coal Heritage area in West Virginia, for example, generated $207 million in economic impact, supported 2,744 jobs and $16.8 million in tax revenue in 2016. This designation would greatly enhance the efforts of PRIDE's current tourism marketing initiative of rebranding Southern and Eastern Kentucky as The Kentucky Wildlands."

Since 1984, 55 National Heritage Area designations have been made across the United States. The designation recognizes places where natural, cultural and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.

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