WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) successfully reauthorized the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) for an additional 15 years to continue the conservation of local cultural and historic resources. Senator Heinrich and Representative Leger Fernández introduced bicameral legislation in April 2021 to reauthorize the NRGNHA that was later incorporated into a larger bill introduced by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Senator Stabenow’s bill from the 117th Congress was signed into law.
"Our arts and culture in New Mexico are beautiful, complex, and truly unique. The Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area draws visitors from around the globe and gives context and meaning to our New Mexican way of life,” said Heinrich. “I am proud to reauthorize the NRGNHA for another 15 years so that we can continue promoting our state’s natural and cultural resources for generations to come."
"Culture, land, water, and history intertwine in the Northern Rio Grande to create a landscape and way of life that is beautifully diverse and precious,” said Leger Fernández. "As a Nuevo Mexicana, I deeply value the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area and am grateful to have led work in the House of Representatives to sustain it. This law reauthorizes the NRGHA so that we can continue federal support for the communities, traditions, sacred and historic places, and environment that make Northern New Mexico special.”
Without this critical reauthorization, the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area would lose federal support provided through the National Park Service (NPS). Senator Heinrich and Representative Leger Fernández’s efforts will extend NPS support for an additional 15 years so that the heritage area can continue playing a key role in spurring economic and job opportunities in New Mexico.
The mission of the NRGNHA, which spans Taos, Rio Arriba, and Santa Fe counties, is to sustain the communities, languages, cultures, traditions, heritage and environment of Northern New Mexico. Its work includes projects to preserve the area’s precious linguistic diversity. This includes Apache, Tewa, Tiwa, Spanish, English, and other languages that are all spoken within the bounds of the heritage area. Through partnerships and grants to schools, colleges, tribes and internship programs, the NRGNHA also supports the region’s thriving arts community and provides after-school art classes, community farming education projects, and more.
The Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act received the support of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and both the Santa Fe County and the Taos County Boards of Commissioners.
“It was against all odds and a true Christmas miracle that we got this bill across the finish line. We have all been working on this for over 6 years. A few years ago, we received an extension from Congress for an additional year of funding. I want to recognize the role that the National Association of Counties (NACo) played in helping us; they lobbied on behalf of National Heritage Areas (NHAs) and wrote letters to leadership in both the Senate and the House. It was a huge effort by all the members of the Alliance of National Heritage Area and NACo and Senators and Representations on both side of the aisle. Senator Heinrich played an important role in getting it approved and out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate, and Rep. Leger Fernandez encouraged leadership in the House to support this bill. It was the best Solstice/Christmas present ever to have funding for 15 years to help non-profits who work to preserve our history and culture, which is a true gift to all of Northern New Mexico. NRGNHA’s 12-year report will be disseminated soon, and we are prepared to provide benefits and grants to our communities for the next 15 years,” said NRGNHA President and Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen.