Heinrich, Leger Fernández Introduce Legislation To Reauthorize Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area

Extending federal support for heritage area would fuel local tourism economy, create job opportunities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) introduced bicameral legislation to reauthorize the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) and continue the conservation of local cultural and historic resources through 2036. 

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 hope that by extending NPS support for an additional 15 years, the heritage area can play a key role in spurring economic activity and job creation as the state’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"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 introduce this legislation in partnership with Representative Leger Fernández to continue a treasured heritage area that will promote our state’s natural and cultural resources for generations to come." 

“Culture, land, water and history interweave in a landscape both stunning and fragile along the Rio Grande of northern New Mexico,” said Leger Fernández. “As a 17th generation Nuevo Mexicana and former Vice Chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, I deeply value the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area and am proud to support the work to protect it. This area plays a critical role in conserving and uplifting northern New Mexico's natural, cultural, and historic resources. The Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act of 2021 preserves the area’s vital resources so its stories can help enlighten New Mexicans and the world of the area’s fragile beauty and fascinating history.” 

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 has received the support of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and both the Santa Fe County and the Taos County Boards of Commissioners. 

"Since its establishment in 2014, The Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) continues to be an advocate for cultural maintenance, traditional sustainability and economic development in a region with an unparalleled combination of natural, cultural, and historical resources. Located in north central New Mexico, the NRGNHA supports the history and culture of the Indigenous peoples and oldest continuous settlements in the United States, continuously innovating ways to support historic and contemporary uses for the shared landscape of the region. We are grateful to Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation that will help us continue these efforts and celebrate our querencia,” said Patricia Trujillo, Ph.D., President of the Board, Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area. 

“We are grateful to Senator Martin Heinrich for his dedication to preserving our traditional, historic values in Northern New Mexico by introducing on March 25, 2021 the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act of 2021 to the United States Senate and to Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández for carrying this bill to the House. The NRGNHA Reauthorization Act is important because it will extend the reauthorization date for the heritage area (including Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos Counties) for an additional 15 years, and potentially provide a needed basis for increasing resources provided to the National Heritage Area. With its passage, the NRGNHA will be able to continue to provide grants to our grassroots community organizations and ensure that their programs which raise awareness and provide education and cultural outreach of our rich historic heritage may continue without interruption,” said Anna Hansen, Santa Fe County Commissioner and Secretary of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Board of Directors.