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Home arrow Return to Table of Contents: Sources of Financial Assistance for Historic Preservation Projects arrow Funding Preservation of Federally Owned Historic Properties
Funding Preservation of Federally Owned Historic Properties

Stewardship of Federal Historic Properties

Innovative Funding Approaches

  • Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program
  • Recreation Fee Demonstration Program
  • Outleasing Programs and Concession Contracts

    Stewardship of Federal Historic Properties

    In addition to providing financial assistance for non-Federal preservation projects, the Federal Government funds the preservation of a myriad of historic properties under its direct control. It is estimated that the Federal Government manages more than 665 million acres of land and 430,000 buildings, and a great many historic properties are included in this real estate portfolio.

    Support for preservation projects generally comes from general agency operations and maintenance accounts, facility management accounts, or environmental protection and remediation funding. In many cases, funding for the agency program infrastructure to support preservation activities must also come from such general sources, although some agencies (such as the National Park Service (NPS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Forest Service) have budget accounts dedicated to cultural resource management and related programs.

    Unfortunately, as documented in the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)'s study on Federal stewardship, Caring For the Past Managing for the Future (, current funding levels are inadequate given the scope of the preservation needs. Overall, traditional budget sources and programming have been chronically inadequate to meet the pressing need for maintenance and repair of federally owned historic properties and cannot compete with other facility or installation management priorities.

    As discussed below, some agencies are using innovative funding and management strategies to enhance their stewardship capabilities. Recommendations for further stimulating initiative, creativity, and efficiency in the Federal stewardship of historic properties are available in the ACHP's report, Becoming Better Stewards of Our Past (

    Innovative Funding Approaches

    Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program
    Federal Agency: Department of Defense

    In FY 1991, Congress created the Department of Defense (DoD) Legacy Resource Management Program to promote the effective management and conservation of historical, biological, and geophysical resources on DoD lands. Funding for the program is "fenced" so that it can only be used for cultural and natural resource preservation.

    Since its inception, the Legacy program has funded both demonstration projects and program development. The current emphasis is on projects with regional or DoD-wide benefit. From FY 1991 to FY 2007, the Legacy Program has funded more than $275 million in projects.

    NOAA Preserve America Initiative Grant Program
    Federal Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Since 2005, NOAA has set aside funds for an internal mini-grant program designed to stimulate efforts within NOAA to preserve, protect and promote the agency's heritage assets. Projects from FY05 through FY07 have varied in scope from interpreting historic and cultural resources in NOAA's care, to capturing oral histories of NOAA stakeholder groups, including fishermen and Native Americans.

    Recreation Fee Demonstration Program
    Federal Agencies: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service

    Under the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, fees for recreational use of Federal lands help to fund backlogged repair and maintenance projects, interpretation, resource preservation, habitat enhancement, etc. Created by Congress in 1996, the program authorizes NPS, BLM, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service to collect entrance fees and user fees at test locations and retain 80 percent of the funds for onsite improvements.

    Historic properties have benefitted to varying degrees, but the potential for funding preservation activities through the program is substantial. From 1996 through 2004, the four agencies with recreation fee authority collected a total of over $1 billion in recreation free revenues.

    Outleasing Programs and Concession Contracts

    In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on the need for land-managing agencies to partner with the private sector to fund reuse and preservation of historic properties. Section 111 of the National Historic Preservation Act encourages this by authorizing Federal agencies to outlease historic properties and retain the proceeds to fund preservation activities. If an agency determines the historic real property isn’t needed for current or projected agency purposes, as an alternative to transfer under NHPA Section 111, they may lease the property (or exchange it with any person or organization with comparable historic property) if the agency determines that the lease or exchange will adequately ensure the preservation of the historic property. This alternative can be beneficial because proceeds from the lease can be retained by the agency and used to fund preservation activities.

    Among agencies using Section 111,NPS, GSA and the Coast Guard have notable track records for outleasing historic properties in exchange for rehabilitation and maintenance. NPS also ensures that concessionaires which use historic buildings create accounts to fund capital improvements and cyclic maintenance. In some cases, up to 20 percent of the concessionaire's gross revenues go into such preservation accounts. A recent GSA example of Programmatic Agreement associated with 106 compliance for a 111 lease can be found here: Smaller outleases, for communications antennae, etc., are also available for some agencies.

    For many other agencies, outleasing historic properties remains a relatively untapped opportunity. Absent specific authority from Congress regarding outleasing, there frequently is disagreement within an agency regarding its legal ability to enter into such public-private partnerships, despite Section 111. Even when an agency's authority is not in question, outleasing of historic properties may not immediately result.

    Updated August 25, 2014

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