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FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT IS FREEDOM'S FRONTIER NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA?

Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area was authorized by Congress in 2006. FFNHA consists of willing partners from throughout the 41 counties in western Missouri and eastern Kansas that guide the planning and execution of heritage area projects. The work of FFNHA is coordinated by a minimal staff working with partners throughout the area. It is the only entity in the area focused on regional coordination of these nationally important stories. Partners, working through task forces and committees, are represented on a bi-state Board of Trustees. More information can be found by reading through the planning documents and management plan, or by contacting info@freedomsfrontier.org.

WHAT ARE THE THEMES OF FREEDOM'S FRONTIER?

Freedom’s Frontier is a “story ecosystem” defined by the history that unifies the region. The overarching theme of FFNHA is Freedom. Each of the three sub-themes connects to the ideal of freedom and clearly states why the area’s resources and values are important enough to warrant federal designation of the area. The main sub-theme is the Missouri Kansas Border War, consisting of interpretations of the years of uneasy balance established by the Missouri Compromise leaving the territory’s future slave status in the hands of settlers and ushering in the Civil War. Additional sub-themes include Shaping the Frontier, interpreting this place where river travel ended and traders, miners, and emigrants began the long overland treks beyond Missouri’s western border, pushing Native American populations aside in the process, and the Enduring Struggles for Freedom, interpreting stories of this place that has inspired national policies and ongoing efforts to secure equal freedoms for all Americans.

WHAT IS A NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA?

A National Heritage Area is a designated place that has a combination of unique natural, cultural, historic, and recreational elements of significance to our shared American heritage. The first NHA – the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area – was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

NHAs are partnerships with local communities that celebrate and preserve the values and distinct features of our nation’s culture and history. There are 55 designated and active National Heritage Areas in 34 states across the country.

Though funded through the National Park Service, NHAs are not National Park units. NPS provides Congressionally authorized matching funds, technical assistance, and a strong partnership. NHAs benefit from hundreds of thousands of hours from more than 20,000 annual volunteers.

The United States Congress designates a select few regions in the nation where significant national stories have taken place. A heritage area links historic and cultural sites within that region by telling a unified story that attracts visitors, educates citizens, stimulates economic opportunities, and preserves the important themes of the locale. These heritage areas begin Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage as local initiatives, which are ultimately authorized by Congress and administered by the National Park Service. Freedom’s Frontier is a member of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas.

WHAT DO NATIONAL HERITAGE AREAS DO FOR US?

NHAs engage community through education, volunteerism, outdoor recreation, the arts, and more. Place-based storytelling and public engagement allows every American to remember, celebrate, and engage with our past while building powerful community bonds.

NHAs ensure that future generations may also engage in meaningful relationships with American history, culture, and landscapes by preserving these spaces and the stories they represent.

HOW ARE NHAS ESTABLISHED?

NHAs engage community through education, volunteerism, outdoor recreation, the arts, and more. Place-based storytelling and public engagement allows every American to remember, celebrate, and engage with our past while building powerful community bonds.

NHAs ensure that future generations may also engage in meaningful relationships with American history, culture, and landscapes by preserving these spaces and the stories they represent.

DO NHAS IMPACT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS?

No. National Heritage Areas do not affect private property rights within their designated areas, period.

Though NHAs are funded through the National Park Service, they are not National Park units. NPS does not assume ownership of land inside heritage areas or impose land use controls. NHAs are – and will always be – community-driven, based on cooperation. Participation in an NHA is entirely voluntary.

Legislation that authorizes National Heritage Areas includes specific language that guarantees that NHAs will protect private property rights. In fact, in the National Heritage Area Act of 2021, the bill states: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to abridge 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.”

Indeed, a review of NHAs by General Accounting Office directed by Congress was unable to find a single instance of an NHA directly affecting how a private property can be used. Groups interviewed for the study included private property rights advocates such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Land Rights Association, and the Private Property Foundation of America.

HOW TRANSPARENT IS THE CREATION AND REAUTHORIZATION OF NHAS AND WHAT PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT IS INCLUDED?

The creation and extension of NHAs are driven by community leaders, businesses, and stakeholders. They are then sponsored and championed by Members of Congress, usually from the states and districts in which they are located. There is nothing secretive about them.

Some of the early adopters of National Heritage Areas were “Rust Belt” communities that sought a new way to spur economic development and tourism in the region. Their success and popularity spread to other communities throughout the country.

What’s more, if communities have concerns about or don’t want an NHA, they won’t become a reality. To date, 55 NHAs have been created precisely because the cities, counties, and states in which they are located saw their value and pushed for their creation and sought input from residents and other local stakeholders. Community support will always be a foundation for NHAs.

WHAT CAN I DO TO SUPPORT NATIONAL HERITAGE AREAS?

Visit one! NHAs’ success depends on regular visitors. There are 55 located in places across the country – plan your next trip around going to one (or several!).

You can also contact your Member of Congress and let them know you support National Heritage Areas, and specifically the National Heritage Area Act of 2021 (S. 1942 / H.R. 1316). Elected officials need to know that NHAs have public support and need to be reauthorized.

And finally, NHAs could not function without volunteers, who help NHAs with a range of services. More than 23,000 volunteers contributed nearly 400,000 hours to support NHAs in 2020 – even amid the challenges of a global pandemic. If you’d like to volunteer, contact your local NHA!

WHERE IS THERE MORE INFORMATION?