New legislation extends authorization of Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

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Credit: Photo by Bob Claxton

Credit: Photo by Bob Claxton

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock introduced the National Heritage Act on Thursday, which would extend the authorization of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor lands to 2036, a few days before the current authorization is set to expire on Feb. 18.

The legislation also includes Georgia's two other National Heritage Areas: the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area and Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area.

"Georgia’s National Heritage Areas are critical to preserving our state’s rich history, protecting our wildlife and encouraging local economic opportunity in the communities they serve," Warnock said in the media release. "I’m committed to my work in ensuring these communities are fully supported in the years ahead.”

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Credit: Will Peebles

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Credit: Will Peebles

With this legislation, the cap on total federal funding the three National Heritage Areas can receive over their authorization period will also be removed. According to Warnock's office, each individual NHA has a $10 million cap over the period of their authorization and the bill will allow authorized NHAs to continue receiving appropriations moving forward.

The legislation takes further steps to support the Gullah Geechee community by eliminating specific meeting requirements and changing official federal references of “Gullah/Geechee” to “Gullah Geechee,” as supported by Gullah Geechee representatives.

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Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

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Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

The Gullah Geechee culture on Sapelo Island faces threats to landholdings through tourism-fueled development and sea-level rise, which the community is continuously fighting. Victoria Smalls, the executive director of Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage, said they're grateful their representatives are being recognized for the "mighty work being done on behalf of the people in our communities."

“The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and Commission have worked tirelessly to support the original vision for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor National Heritage Area," Smalls said.

"Through on-the-ground programming and a strong online presence, the corridor team has worked to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money by providing educational and preservation programming that allows everyone to appreciate this undercelebrated of our American heritage that is in keeping with the goals of the National Park Service."

Laura Nwogu is the quality of life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at lnwogu@gannett.com. Twitter: @lauranwogu_

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: New legislation extends authorization of Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor