“IT PASSED !!!!”
That was Executive Director Julie Chacon early Friday with the news she had been hoping and waiting for out of Washington, D.C. Congress through its last-minute maneuvering adopted the reauthorization of the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area and two other national heritage areas in Colorado.
“I’m beyond ecstatic that we have been reauthorized for another 15 years. We still have so much that we want to do in our national heritage area. We want the world to learn our history, cultures, and traditions in our little corner,” Chacon said.
Chacon had watched other national heritage areas in the country go through a congressional reauthorization process in past years. She knew the road would be winding and there would be peaks and valleys once the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area, Cache La Poudre National Heritage Area, and South Park National Heritage Area all came due for reauthorization and began pressing their case in 2022 through a bill sponsored by Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.
What she wasn’t prepared for were the last days of the congressional session and the ups and downs as Congress moved specific legislative items in and out of the $1.7 trillion funding bill that became the focus in the final days of 2022.
“We still have so much that we want to do in our national heritage area. We want the world to learn our history, cultures, and traditions in our little corner.”
– Julie Chacon, SdCNHA executive director
The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area encompasses 3,000 square miles in Alamosa County, Conejos County, and Costilla County, with 11,000 years of documented human habitation. It is among 55 congresionally designated national heritage areas in the U.S., governed through nonprofit boards. | SdCNHA map
WITH support from the lobbying efforts of The Alliance of National Heritage Areas and good old-fashioned letter writing and phone calling to congressional members, the U.S. House followed up on what the U.S. Senate sent over and signed off Thursday evening on the heritage area’s reauthorization.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of the ANHA! It’s definitely been a roller-coaster ride!!!,” Chacon emailed.
“We received tons of letters, emails, and calls of support from our elected officials, partners, and locals to submit to Congress.”
The legislation funds Colorado’s three national heritage areas through September 2036, provided of course that Congress finds a way each year to adopt a federal budget. It was this congressional session’s roller coaster ride of adopting an omnibus bill that gave Chacon and others who were following the reauthorization process a taste of how the wheels of federal bureaucracy turn.
“For months, the bill was being sent back and forth between the House and Senate with markups and amendments. Tons of strategic meetings and calls were taking place,” Chacon said in describing the experience. “We kept getting tabled to the next session. After Thanksgiving, our bill had still not passed, and we knew it had to be approved by the end of December, or we would have to start all over. It was now or never!”
Now won, and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area – the birthplace of Colorado – can continue to showcase its story.
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