WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation on Tuesday that was introduced by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to honor the legacy of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, by expanding the Lincoln National Heritage Area in Illinois to include Livingston County, the city of Jonesboro in Union County and the city of Freeport in Stephenson County. The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area Amendment Act, which passed the Senate as part of the Natural Resources Management Act, will increase economic opportunities for Illinoisans working to preserve the historic site and create new recreation, tourism and educational projects. U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16) has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“President Lincoln is a true American hero who expanded liberty and freedom for many and worked tirelessly to steer our country through some of our most challenging times. Our democracy would not be what it is today without his leadership,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud the Senate passed our bill to honor his legacy and bring new opportunities for economic growth to local communities across central Illinois.”
“Expanding the Lincoln National Heritage Area will give future generations of Illinois residents and visitors the chance to learn about President Lincoln’s lasting legacy in our great state,” said Durbin. “This bill will also support Illinois communities and help grow the local economy by increasing access to federal grants for preservation and education. I was proud to work with Senator Duckworth to pass this bill in the Senate.”
“I am grateful to Senators Duckworth and Durbin for their efforts to pass this legislation and look forward to working with them and the entire Illinois Congressional delegation to get this bill through the House of Representatives and signed into law,” said Looking for Lincoln Executive Director Sarah Watson. “By expanding the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area to 43 counties in central Illinois and the communities of Freeport and Jonesboro, we continue to increase the economic benefit of Heritage tourism through telling the national significant story of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln’s 30 years in Illinois.”
The legislation unanimously passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year and it would not add a dime to the deficit according to the Congressional Budget Office. The existing Lincoln National Heritage Area was established in 2008 and preserves the rich legacy of President Lincoln. The region includes 42 counties across central Illinois, stretching from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River, and is one of the largest heritage areas in the nation. The site generates approximately $260 million in economic impact, supports more than 3,000 jobs and generates $25.5 million in tax revenue.
The counties that would be added to the Lincoln National Heritage Area under this legislation are of special significance to President Lincoln’s personal and professional life. These areas are where Lincoln developed his legal career within the Eighth Judicial District. They are also home to the sites of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Lincoln-Douglas debate sites in Freeport and Jonesboro are the only two of nine from the 1858 U.S. Senate debates currently outside the heritage area.