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The concept of a Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area has been created by a partnership of local interests that have a stake in the future of the region. Community-based development that preserves important resources, promotes a sense of place, and provides new economic opportunities is envisioned.

The concept recognizes that conservation efforts cannot be successful without the participation and leadership of those people closest to the resources, and it encourages the stewardship roles of local communities and private landowners. Most importantly, it provides a way for the people who live here to create a future that includes the cultural traditions, historic places, working landscapes, and natural treasures that make this region unique.

Rather than being top-down, mandatory, and involving land set-asides or use restrictions, the National Heritage Area designation is based on grass roots organization and voluntary preservation, and it does not involve property or land-use regulation.  Read more about National Heritage Areas.  

The concept of a Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area is based on the following principles:

  •     heritage education
  •     voluntary preservation
  •     security of property rights

Heritage Education - A deeper understanding and appreciation of our cultural and natural legacy can be achieved through heritage education. In addition to nurturing a sense of continuity and connection with our historical and cultural experiences in this region, heritage education instills a stronger “sense of place,” and encourages residents to consider their past in planning for the future. The Heritage Alliance strives for heritage education that fosters a stewardship ethic, resulting in community-based, voluntary resource preservation.

Voluntary Preservation - A fundamental principle of the National Heritage Area concept is that conservation efforts are most successful when the people living closest to the resources set the agenda, identify priorities, and initiate preservation actions voluntarily. The primary function of a National Heritage Area is to provide assistance to communities, groups, landowners, and other stakeholders to help them achieve their goals of resource preservation, promotion, and interpretation. Priorities are identified through an active public process and participation by private property owners is completely voluntary.

Security of Property Rights
- The National Heritage Area concept recognizes the importance of private lands, and that property owners are the primary planners of land use. Designation as a Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area will not affect private property rights, property taxes, land-use zoning, or the right to renovate or remove existing buildings on private property. Specific language is included in the designation bill and will be included in the subsequent management plan stating that the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area will have no regulatory authority, and it will be precluded from using federal funding to acquire real property or an interest in real property.

The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act explicitly protects private property rights:

Nothing in this subtitle—
(1) abridges the rights of any property owner (whether public or private), including the right to refrain from participating in any plan, project, program, or activity conducted within the National Heritage Area;
(2) requires any property owner to permit public access (including access by Federal, State, Tribal, or local agencies) to the property of the property owner, or to modify public access or use of property of the property owner under any other Federal, State, Tribal, or local law;
(3) alters any duly adopted land use regulation, approved land use plan, or other regulatory authority of any Federal, State, Tribal, or local agency, or conveys any land use or other regulatory authority to any local coordinating entity, including but not necessarily limited to development and management of energy, water, or water-related infrastructure;
(4) authorizes or implies the reservation or appropriation of water or water rights;
(5) diminishes the authority of the State to manage fish and wildlife, including the regulation of fishing and hunting within the National Heritage Area; or
(6) creates any liability, or affects any liability under any other law, of any private property owner with respect to any person injured on the private property.

Read more about National Heritage Areas and the designation effort here.