KTTU "In Focus," Sunday, 3/27/11, 10:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Vanessa Bechtol, Executive Director, Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance.

Legislation to designate the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in southern Arizona is “back to square one.”  Bechtol says the measure passed the U.S. House for a second time but was not taken up by the Senate before Congress adjourned in 2010.  She says Senator John McCain has indicated he supports the measure by the has yet to pursue it.  She says now that the membership of the House has changed, it’s not a sure thing it will be introduced there again.  She says she is hopeful it will be taken up by the Senate during this session.

At stake, according to Bechtol, are investment opportunities and increased tourism.  She says there is up to $10 million in Federal funding, with a 50-percent match in local funding, available over a period of 15 years, to carry out preservation efforts. The Santa Cruz Valley, from northern Pima County south to the Mexican border, comprises the “National Heritage Area” here.  She says concerns that privately-owned land might be taken over by the government are totally unfounded.  She says the legislation would include language specifically protecting private property.  She says neither would private property owners have to grant public access nor would any existing land use plans be affected.

Bechtol says there are currently 49 such Areas designated in the U.S., and none had any opposition.  She says the economic benefits make it a win-win experience for all parties.