Gov. Pete Ricketts on Wednesday expressed opposition to the Willa Cather Foundation’s plans to seek designation of portions of south-central and southwestern Nebraska as a protected National Heritage Area.
“While we appreciate the important contributions of Willa Cather and her writings to that area and the State of Nebraska as a whole, this designation poses the risk of federal overreach in our communities,” the governor said.
A letter to Ashley Olson, executive director of the foundation in Red Cloud, that expressed the governor’s opposition was co-signed by Anthony Goins, director of the state Department of Economic Development, and Steve Wellman, director of the Department of Agriculture.
Ricketts said the national heritage designation would require a national environment policy plan that could act as “a significant barrier (to) infrastructure and other important projects,” perhaps hindering growth and development in communities and surrounding areas.
“It is also worth noting that over the past few months the state has been contacted by Nebraskans voicing their opposition to the designation,” the letter stated.
“Those constituents feel as though our state can adequately promote our own regional tourism without any federal intervention, a sentiment that we share.”
The national heritage law was signed in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, who hailed its provisions as creating “a new kind of national park.”
Its purpose included protection of nationally important, culturally historic landscapes.
Cather, nationally renowned for her novels about life on the Great Plains, lived as a child in Red Cloud and graduated from the University of Nebraska.
The Kansas Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership recently announced its intention to seek the national heritage designation for 49 counties in Nebraska and Kansas.