Introduced in honor of the scenic highway’s 75th anniversary this year, the Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act would authorize $75 million to purchase properties and easements along the route. Conservation Trust for North Carolina’s Executive Director Reid Wilson testified March 18 in support of the bill, speaking before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the importance of saving viewsheds on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Margaret Lillard, communications director of CTNC, reports that this appropriation would be a great thing for Western North Carolina. “Views are very important to tourists. The Parkway is a ribbon of beauty and a cultural treasure. There would be a huge payoff to the region.” In his testimony, Wilson stressed that “the Parkway is the economic lifeblood of nearby mountain communities, bring more than $2 billion per year to the regions of North Carolina and Virginia through which it passes. Businesses near the Parkway already know how it hurts when a section is closed due to weather or road damage.”
The bills (S2951 and HR4524) do not specify any particular parcel of land at this stage. The bills authorize funding to protect and conserve properties contiguous with the Blue Ridge Parkway. After the bill passes, any legitimate conservation organization can request from this fund to buy the land or the conservation easement from landowners. This federal money would be used to leverage private money.
Congressman Heath Shuler was one of the sponsors in the house. Sen. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr sponsored the Senate bill along with Virginia’s senators. Sen. Burr is on the Energy and Natural Resources committee, which held the hearings.
For more information, see CTNC.org.