Feasibility Studies

Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Designation
Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area
National Heritage Area designation follows a legislative process: completion of a feasibility study, introduction of a bill in Congress, the bill passing in Congress and becoming a law authorizing the creation of the National Heritage Area. Prior to undertaking a feasibility study and developing legislation please review the Feasibility Study Frequently Asked Questions and contact a National Heritage Area Program Coordinator near you to determine if National Heritage Area designation is appropriate for your region. There is no application or nomination process. Becoming an National Heritage Area is a legislative process.

The U.S. Congress designates regions of the country as National Heritage Areas. The NPS, as the federal body charged with managing the NHA program, testifies, at the request of Congress, as to whether or not a region meets the 10 National Heritage Area feasibility study evaluation criteria.

Feasibility Studies
National Heritage Area feasibility studies can be led by community groups or the NPS. The NPS only undertakes NHA feasibility studies when directed to do so by an Act of Congress.

The National Park Service (NPS) recommends that a feasibility study (rather than an application or nomination) is undertaken to assess 10 NHA evaluation criteria. Broadly, these evaluation criteria relate to the following questions:
  1. Does the landscape has an assemblage of historic, cultural, and natural resources that, when linked together, tell a nationally important story?
  2. Do outstanding opportunities exist for improving the quality of the resource assemblage through conservation, recreation, and education?
  3. Are there ongoing traditions, customs, and lifeways associated with a nationally important story?
  4. Does an organization exist that has the financial and organizational capacity to coordinate heritage area activities?
  5. Is there public support for NHA designation and the proposed coordinating entity, and are potential partners interested in working with the proposed coordinating entity on heritage area activities?
The feasibility study is an analytical document. Through analysis, the entity leading the study may discover that heritage area designation is not the right strategy for the region. Alternately, it may be determined that NHA designation is appropriate given the resources and nationally important story, but it is not the best approach at this time because all the necessary elements (i.e. organizational capacity, partners or community support) are not yet in place.

Feasibility Study Guidance

Feasibility Study Review Process
Draft studies should be sent to the appropriate NPS regional office and the NHA Program Office in Washington D.C. for review. The Washington D.C. review process includes NPS subject matter experts from the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks, Planning, Interpretation, and other programs.

Ultimately, the feasibility study provides the NPS and the Congress with information regarding the appropriateness of designating a particular region as a National Heritage Area and entering into a funding and technical assistance relationship with a specific National Heritage Area coordinating entity.

Feasibility Studies Completed by NPS

Last updated: July 28, 2023