NHAs are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development and typically involved public-private partnerships.
No NHAs exist in Montana and some have been established in Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Alaska.
According to NPS, the designation often results in sustainable economic development as NHAs can leverage federal funding to create jobs, generate revenue for local governments and sustain local communities through revitalization and heritage tourism.
An effort to explore an NHA has started in Bozeman, but it’s in the preliminary stages.
About 60 people attended the meeting in Great Falls on May 3.
Lola Sheldon-Galloway, a state legislator, said her property in the Sun Prairie area was in the proposed boundary and asked if it could be removed.
Carlino said that there is no impact on property rights or zoning from NHAs and property owners within the boundary can simply chose not to be involved.
The federal laws establishing NHAs require that no property rights or zoning be impacted, Morgan told the group. She previously worked with a heritage area in Louisiana. The local planning group has also adopted a resolution to protect property rights.
Heritage areas also provide recreational opportunities, Morgan said.
“It’s not just preserving the past,” she said.
The proposed themes for the Upper Missouri River heritage area are:
- Ice Age/American Indians
- Exploration and settlement
The proposed boundary is from Fort Benton to Gates of the Mountains with tributaries of the Sun, Smith and Belt Creek.
Those boundaries can change as the feasibility study process continues.
“You have things of national historic significance.” Morgan said. There are four national historic landmarks in the area, including the First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park; Charlie Russell home and studio; the Lewis and Clark Portage Route and the Fort Benton Historic District.
Jane Weber, chair of the planning group and a County Commissioner, told those gathered at the May 3 meeting to stay involved in the process to help shape the boundaries, themes and overall plan, should the heritage area be approved by Congress.
Members of the planning group also met last week with the lieutenant governor, representatives of the Department of Commerce, Montana State Parks, Indian Affairs, Montana Historical Society, state historic preservation office, governor’s office of economic development, state main street program, and the U.S. Forest Service about the proposed heritage area.