Draft feasibility study for region’s national heritage area now available for public comment
Big Sky Country National Heritage Area Inc. has released the draft feasibility study for a 45-day public review, with an Aug. 15 deadline to comment.
The feasibility study must prove that the proposed National Heritage Area has distinctive natural, historic, and cultural resources; as well as strong customs, folklife and traditions that represent our American heritage.
The public is invited to review the draft document on the organization’s website at www.bigskycountrynha.org.
NHA designation requires congressional approval and if granted, the region would be the first in Montana.
There are 55 NHAs in 34 states currently and to receive the designation, an area must “tell nationally important stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage. NHAs are lived-in landscapes. Consequently, NHA entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs,” according to the National Park Service.
A local group has been pursuing the Congressional designation since 2015 and this week updated the community on their projects with the feasibility study, themes and projects already in the works within the proposed boundary.
NHAs are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development and typically involved public-private partnerships. 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.
NHAs in no way restrict individual property ownership rights, impose restrictions or require additional taxes.
Members of the public are encouraged to read the draft Feasibility Study, available in city libraries in Belt, Cascade, Fort Benton and Great Falls, or online at www.bigskycountrynha.org, and to comment or ask any questions about the report findings. Comments will be accepted through Aug. 15.
There are four national historic landmarks in the area: First Peoples Buffalo Jump; Charlie Russell’s log cabin studio and home; the townsite of Fort Benton; and the Lewis and Clark portage route.
“The value of our area’s history and landscape is often overlooked,” Jane Weber said in a release. She’s a county commissioner and current chairman of the Big Sky Country NHA. “Central Montana has many outstanding historical and cultural places to visit and stories to tell. NHA designation can highlight our beautiful places and stories. This is a group that would help communities conduct historic preservation projects, enhance area cultural places, promote the area economy, bring more jobs to the area, and give Montanans one more thing to be proud of in Big Sky Country.”
The study was conducted with the help of two consultants: Augie Carlino, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Nancy Morgan of Tallahassee, Fla., a former co-director of the Cane River National Heritage Area in Natchitoches, La.
TO COMMENT ON THE NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA FEASIBILITY STUDY:
Review the feasibility study online or in person at public libraries in Belt, Cascade, Fort Benton and Great Falls.
Provide specific comments about the study online on the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area website, www.bigskycountrynha.org, and click on the link that reads: Make your views known.
Or comment by mail to: Big Sky Country NHA, Inc.; P.O. Box 1323; Great Falls, MT 59403