Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area?

The heritage area combines cultures, languages, art, craft, customs, and architecture that make it unique in the United States. It includes spectacular natural, scenic, and recreational resources that shape human lives and are, in turn, shaped by human activities. It is a Cultural Landscape, a distinct geographical area reflecting the combined work of nature and people.

You can learn more about the National Heritage Areas program here.

How did the region become a heritage area?

In 1991, the National Park Service completed a study entitled “Alternative Concepts for Commemorating Spanish Colonization,” which covered the entire state.

Ten years later, in 2001, the National Park Service also completed “Northern Rio Grande, NM: A Proposal,” which focused on 9 areas in El Norte: Las Trampas, El Rito, Abiquiu, Peñasco, Taos, Santa Cruz, Ohkay Owingeh, Española and San Ildefonso.

In 2006, Congress designated the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area. It encompasses a mosaic of cultures and history, including the Jicarilla Apache, 8 Pueblo tribes, the descendants of Spanish colonists who settled in the area beginning in 1598 and newcomers of diverse backgrounds who have come to the region since New Mexico became a territory of the United States in the middle 19th century.

How does the heritage area work?

Congress requires all Heritage Areas to have a coordinator. Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Española, is identified in the 2006 legislation as the coordinating body for the heritage area. It will receive funds from Congress, and can receive funds from the state of New Mexico, counties, and cities; grants from organizations; and tax-deductible donations

What will the coordinating body do with the funds it receives?

Congress requires NRGNHA, Inc to use federal funds to help local communities and residents conserve the unique cultural, historical and natural resources of the Heritage Area.

This will be done by helping fund heritage projects that communities propose. Example projects include building trails, placing road signs, recording archaeological sites, constructing interpretive centers, printing brochures for tours, and so on.

When and how will the NRGNHA, Inc begin receiving federal funds?

Congress requires that NRGNHA, Inc complete a plan that:

• Demonstrates knowledge of the cultural and natural resources in the Heritage Area;

• Demonstrates that communities have been consulted for detailed input on important traditions, heritage, and landscape and

• Demonstrates that communities and agencies have agreed to partner with us over the next 10-15 years to accomplish common goals.

Once this document is completed and approved by the Secretary of the Interior in Washington, DC, NRGNHA, Inc becomes eligible to receive federal funds.

Click here to read the legislation that created the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area, Public Law 109-338 (Oct. 12, 2006)


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