The National Coal Heritage Area (NCHA) is one of only 40 nationally designated heritage areas in the entire United States. It represents a part of the growing effort by the National Park Service to develop resource protection initiatives for areas of national importance that rely on partnerships and private ownership rather than the traditional methods of Federally owned parklands. The mission of the National Coal Heritage Area is to preserve, protect, and interpret lands, structures, and communities associated with the coal mining heritage of West Virginia.
The NCHA encompasses 13 counties in southern West Virginia: Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Logan, Lincoln, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Wyoming and Paint Creek and Cabin Creek located in southern Kanawha County. An initiative of Congressman Nick Joe Rahall II, the idea of the NCHA began in the early 1990's when the National Park Service was directed to complete a study to evaluate significant "historic, cultural, natural and recreational resources" to determine the "feasibility of protecting coal mining and related resources in southern West Virginia". In November 1996, the US Congress passed into law the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act which officially designated the region as the National Coal Heritage Area.