Press Releases

Representatives Trahan and Moulton Introduce Legislation to Protect Essex National Heritage Area

Washington, DC —Today, Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) and Seth Moulton (D-MA-06)  introduced the Essex National Heritage Area Permanency Act. The bill would eliminate the funding authorization sunset provision and the total funding cap for the Essex National Heritage Area. On September 30, 2021, the Essex National Heritage Area’s authorization is set to sunset—meaning Essex Heritage will exist in name only, without any federal funding to operate in current form.

“From Lawrence to Haverhill to Andover to Gloucester, the Essex National Heritage Area has helped our region develop and grow to the benefit of Bay Staters and visitors alike. Permanently renewing the authorization of this crucial funding is necessary for the continued growth of the 34 cities and towns within the region. This is also a smart investment. Studies show that every $1.00 Congress invests in a National Heritage Area leads to $5.50 in local economic activity. I look forward to working with Congressman Moulton to see this important legislation signed into law,” said Congresswoman Trahan.

“People tell me all the time they’d like to see their government run more like a business. Any responsible business leader who saw that their $20 million investment generates more than $150 million in return, with the added benefit of employing thousands of people, would double down,” said Congressman Moulton. “It would be foolish to let the Essex National Heritage Area’s authorization expire. This is a jobs bill at the end of the day, and we’re going to fight to get it passed.”

“We are thrilled to have Congressman Moulton and Congresswoman Trahan’s support and endorsement for our work – and to know that they are looking out for the wellbeing of the national heritage area. Lifting the sunset and cap on the federal funds that we can receive will help our long-term planning and growth,” saidAnnie Harris, the Director of the Essex National Heritage Area. 

 The Essex National Heritage Area spans 500 square-miles and connects 34 cities and towns from Lawrence to Haverhill to Gloucester and to Lynn. Since it was created in 1996, Congress has been authorized to invest up to $17 million in the Area. The original legislation had a sunset of 2012 for when the Essex Heritage could receive funding; the date was later extended to 2021. Today’s bill eliminates completely the sunset provision and the funding cap the Essex National Heritage Area can receive over the course of its life. Essex Heritage uses these funds to engage the region’s residents and visitors in the country’s past, and to prepare young people for the future. For example, Essex Heritage runs historic and cultural education programs for residents, visitors and schools, It has a summer jobs program that employs young people at two National Park Sites that teaches them trade-based skills and civic responsibility. And it maintains the region’s Essex Coastal Scenic Byway program which brings tourists to the region’s historic towns and cities.


Earlier this year, Congresswoman Trahan worked with Congressman Moulton to raise the funding cap as part of The Natural Resources Management Act, a sweeping public lands bill which has since become law. The critical legislation increased the amount of funding the National Heritage Area can receive but was not able to extend the sunset date.


National Heritage Areas are Congressionally-designated places where “natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.” The program is affiliated with the National Park Service, and there are currently 55 heritage areas across the USA. Unlike National Parks, most National Heritage Areas are within large communities and managed by independent, local nonprofits that receive funds from the federal government through the Park Service. Research from the Park Service indicates every $1.00 Congress invests in a National Heritage Area leads to $5.50 in local economic activity.

Federal investments in the Essex National Heritage Area are typically used as seed money for private sector investments. According to Essex Heritage, the group has raised three times the amount it receives from Congress in private investments. Congress put caps on spending and an expiration date on National Heritage Areas when it created them in 1996 because the idea that National Heritage Areas would work as designed was unproven. Since then, studies from the National Park Service and several non-government economists have shown overwhelmingly that National Heritage Areas are smart investments. For example, Congress’s investment in the Essex National Heritage Area supports about 2,000 jobs and generates more than $150 million in local economic activity. That economic activity leads to $14.3 million in tax revenue.