A pair of bills authored by U.S. Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) and Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) were signed into law today as a part of the National Heritage Area Act.
The efforts by the two senators resulted in the reauthorization of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in Northwest Alabama for another 15 years and the creation of a new National Heritage Area in the state, the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area.
“It was a privilege to join Senator Shelby on these two efforts to support the preservation and promotion of our state’s history,” Tuberville said. “This is a great example of how the federal government can work with local communities to ensure future generations have access to some of our country’s most historical and cultural sites.”
Last May, Tuberville and Shelby introduced a bill to establish the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, authorizing Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington, and Wilcox counties in the Black Belt Region to become the state’s second National Heritage Area.
The bill allows federal funding to be directed to the designated region over the span of 15 years and names the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama as the local management entity.
“It’s important we honor the region’s significant impact in the civil rights movement and the fact that this area is home to some of our state’s most celebrated cultural figures,” Tuberville said. “It is fitting that this region will become our state’s second National Heritage Area.”
In April, they introduced legislation to extend the authorization of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area which includes Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties, and partners with the University of North Alabama.
The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area was first established by Congress in 2009 and was set to expire in 2024. Their reauthorization bill extends the programs and funding eligibility for the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area for another 15 years.
“Maintaining this National Heritage Area designation ensures the preservation of the culture, history, and landmarks Northwest Alabama is most known for and proud of, Tuberville said. “From music to Native American heritage to the Tennessee River – this reauthorization will support education, tourism, and conservation efforts for this important region in Alabama.”
Dr. Carolyn Barske Crawford, director of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, praised the Alabama delegation’s efforts.
“(The bill) reauthorizes the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area through 2037,” she said. “Having reauthorization settled ahead of our 2024 sunset date means that we can focus our attention and resources on continuing the work we do in our six counties instead of on securing another individual reauthorization bill.
“We appreciate the support of Senator Shelby, Senator Tuberville, and Congressman (Robert) Aderholt (R-Haleyville) and all of the congressional staff who helped us to see S. 1942 through to the end. We are also excited for the designation of the Alabama Black Belt NHA, the second NHA in Alabama.”
National Heritage Areas are partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and local entities to protect and support conservation and public access.