WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and U.S. Representatives Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Mike Johnson (R-LA) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) today introduced legislation to create the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area (S. 2947 and H.R. 5957). The area proposed by the Caddo National Heritage Area Commission (CNHAC) is a 900-square-mile geographic area on the Texas-Louisiana border that encompasses Caddo Lake, contiguous bayous, and a portion of the Red River. According to CNHAC, the area contains more than 200 historic sites and six land- and water-based trails. If passed, the U.S. secretary of the interior will declare the final boundaries of the heritage site.
“By creating the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area, we can boost Louisiana’s conservation efforts and preserve the region’s history and cultural heritage for future generations while protecting the rights of private land owners,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“The Caddo Lake National Heritage Area is the product of years of work with local stakeholders. This legislation will help preserve the heritage of Caddo Lake, contiguous bayous, and a portion of the Red River. This National Heritage Area designation will attract more visitors, stimulate economic growth, and preserve six land and water-based heritage trails, in addition to, also protecting over 200 historical landmarks: all of these advantages occur without adversely affecting anyone’s private property rights or interests,” said Representative Gohmert. “Caddo Lake is truly a natural resource beauty –complete with a rich history and abundant wildlife. I look forward to working with Senator Cassidy and Congressmen Johnson and Ratcliffe as we move this bill through the legislative process — to preserve this area and make it more enjoyable and lucrative for all.”
“The designation of Caddo Lake as a National Heritage Area is a testament to the community’s deep appreciation for the historical and cultural significance of the lake and its surrounding wildlife areas, consisting of more than 200 historic sites and dating all the way back to the earliest settlements in Louisiana. It is a privilege to introduce legislation with my Texas and Louisiana colleagues to preserve the beauty and history of this land for generations to come,” said Representative Johnson.
The proposal is supported by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Red River Valley Association and the Louisiana Greater Caddo Lake Association, and would not affect private property rights.
According to the National Park Service, “National Heritage Areas (NHA) expand on traditional approaches to resource stewardship by supporting large-scale, community-driven initiatives that connect local citizens to the preservation and planning process.”
According to the Park Service, some of the long-term benefits of NHA activities include:
- Sustainable economic development – NHAs leverage federal funds (NHAs average $5.50 for every $1.00 of federal investment) to create jobs, generate revenue for local governments, and sustain local communities through revitalization and heritage tourism
- Healthy environment and people – Many NHAs improve water and air quality in their regions through restoration projects, and encourage people to enjoy natural and cultural sites by providing new recreational opportunities.
- Improved Quality of Life –Through new or improved amenities, unique settings, and educational and volunteer opportunities, NHAs improve local quality of life.
- Education and Stewardship – NHAs connect communities to natural, historic, and cultural sites through educational activities, which promote awareness and foster interest in and stewardship of heritage resources.
- Community Engagement and Pride – By engaging community members in heritage conservation activities, NHAs strengthen sense of place and community pride.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a National Area Heritage Area?
A National Heritage area commemorates, conserves, and promotes areas that include important natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational resources.
Will the Heritage Area be controlled by the federal government in any way?
Will the creation of a National Heritage Area lead to restrictions on hunting or fishing?
No. Currently, activities on Caddo Lake are regulated at the state level. That will not change.
Will the creation of a Heritage area increase federal land or impose more burdensome federal regulations?
No. National Heritage Areas are not controlled by any entity of the federal government. They are not federally owned and managed.
Will the designation affect people’s property rights?
What role does the federal government have?
The National Park Service can provide financial aid to heritage areas but is not able to take any action beyond providing advisory input. National Heritage Areas are not part of the National Park System.
How does the creation of a national heritage impact oil and gas activity on Caddo Lake?
Owners of oil and gas leases will not be impacted by the designation. In fact, the petroleum industry is part of the unique cultural heritage of the area. Currently, activities on Caddo Lake are largely regulated at the state level. That will not change.
Who manages a National Heritage Area?
For Caddo Lake, the proposed legislation creates a local commission to coordinate with state and local partners. It specifically says that an equal number of members must come from Louisiana and Texas, and include individuals from the forestry and energy industries, and environmental, cultural heritage, and tourism groups and regional partners.
Can this local commission create new taxes?
Why will the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area be beneficial to our region?
The National Heritage Area will be able to receive federal funds to commemorate, conserve, and promote areas that include important natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational resources.
An example of the beneficial opportunities provided to National Heritage Areas can be found at the Cane River National Heritage Area in Natchitoches. Last year, in partnership with the Natchitoches Parish Library and the City of Natchitoches, Cane River National Heritage Area created the Pierson and Mallet Children’s Park Reading Trail. The trail is designed to feature a children’s story book that focuses on Louisiana history or a Louisiana author. Each sign depicts pages from the selected story, along with a physical activity for readers. The Heritage Area also sponsors heritage events and programs such as music and folk life festivals that contribute to the interpretation, education and public awareness of the Cane River culture.
Why is this area being selected for a National Heritage Area designation?
Caddo Lake is a special place. Nowhere else in America did a steam boating-based economy, a railroad-based economy, and a petroleum-based economy successively combine over the course of a century to create such a unique cultural heritage. It is that combination that makes the area unique.
I have additional questions and concerns. Who can I talk to?
Since the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area Act of 2018 is in the very beginning stages of the legislative process and is by no means a finished product, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy’s office is actively seeking input from the community. Any questions, concerns, or comments can be directed to Brian Garand or Blake Schindler at 202-224-5824. You can also contact Stephanie McKenzie in my Shreveport office at 318-798-3215.