narrow bar title

Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area

AFNHA News    |     About AFNHA    |     Visit AFNHA    |     AmeriCorps    |     Contact Us

About National Heritage Areas

The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) was designated as a National Heritage Area in March 2019, recognizing the national significance of our forest heritage. The local coordinating entity is Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, Inc. (AFHA) non-profit tax-exempt organization, which was created in 2003, and now doing business also as AFNHA.

Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area encompasses a key section of the central Appalachian highlands. The temperate hardwood forest hosts a unique biodiversity of plant and animal species. These vast forests helped to build and fuel the industrial revolution in the rest of the country. The AFNHA has a rich and complex history of timber harvesting, forest management and the production of forest products. Our Feasibility Study documenting the forest heritage significance of the area was approved in 2006 by the National Park Service as meeting National Heritage Area criteria.



Next AFNHA needed a bill through Congress to be designated. The long road to NHA designation  was successful with National Heritage Area designation in March 2019.

AFNHA is one of 55 National Heritage Areas across the country, where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes, where collaboration with local partners help to conserve and enhance local assets around a nationally significant story.


For over 30 years, National Heritage Areas have been telling America’s story. They are designed as a cost-effective way of conserving our nation’s natural and historic resources. A "National Heritage Area" is a place designated by the United States Congress where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.

Heritage areas offer the potential to ensure key educational and inspirational opportunities in perpetuity, while retaining traditional local control over, and use of, the landscape. Congress has established 55 National Heritage Areas, in which interpretation, conservation, heritage tourism and other activities are managed by partnerships among federal, state, and local governments and the private sector.

The National Park Service provides technical assistance as well as financial assistance for a limited number of years following designation. The Heritage Area program is a grants and outreach program for the National Park Service, not a land management program. There are NO new regulations or management controls associated with designation.

The National Heritage Area program in a nutshell:

• NHA is a grants and outreach program through the National Park Service, administered and controlled locally.
• NHA designation does not result in any additional federal ownership, regulations, or management controls.
• NHAs leverage federal funds that help create jobs, generate revenue for local governments and sustain local communities.
• NHAs return an average of $5.50 for every $1 of federal investment.
• NHAs serve as catalysts in their communities, taking on projects that fit their goals and local priorities. They encourage collaboration and work with willing partners to see projects through.

Support for National Heritage Areas

The current 55 National Heritage Areas each have individual designation, and are managed by the National Park Service without a formal program authorization from Congress. The Alliance of National Heritage Areas, including AFNHA as a new area, are in favor of the National Heritage Area Program Bill, HR 1049 (Tonko/McKinley) which would create a more structured National Heritage Area Program within the National Park Service. This Bill will clarify the criteria for National Heritage Area designation, improve accountability, and mitigate the need for individual reauthorizations. We also support robust funding to support existing and newly designated National Heritage Areas. Support letters from partner organizations can help to get attention for these issues.

Questions or comments about site: