There are fifty-five National Heritage Areas scattered across the US and they continue to grow in number and diversity. Though they’re not officially national parks, their conservation, education, and recreation related objectives echo those of the national parks: to conserve nationally significant natural and cultural landscapes and to make them available to the public for purposes of education, recreation, and sustainable tourism-related economic development. But the methods of achieving these objectives are different—very different—than those used in the national parks. While both national parks and NHAs are established by Congress, national parks are conventionally large areas of public land that are owned and managed by the National Park Service (NPS). NHAs take a more inclusive, partnership-based approach to their work; they offer local citizens, government at all levels, non-profit organizations, and private sector enterprises the opportunity to define, celebrate and conserve the natural, historic, cultural, scenic and recreational resources that have been vital in shaping their identity and destiny. NHAs are composed primarily of private lands; they’re living landscapes where participants reside, work and play. Each chapter in this guidebook describes the remarkable natural and cultural resources that define NHAs and highlights nearby visitor attractions, enticing readers to visit NHAs and to enjoy and appreciate the attractions offered.
Robert Manning is professor emeritus at the University of Vermont, where he taught the history, philosophy, and management of national parks and conducted a long-term program of research for the US National Park Service. He has written a dozen books on managing of national parks and related issues and three guidebooks (with his wife, Martha Manning) on walking and hiking, including the award-winning Walks of a Lifetime in America’s National Parks: Extraordinary Hikes in Exceptional Places (Falcon Guides), which offers descriptions of the natural and cultural history of all the national parks and firsthand descriptions of the very best hikes in each park.