WASHINGTON, DC –Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) Vice Chairman Jordan Tannenbaum signed an agreement on December 6 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (FS) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers that permits the FS to defer and phase its identification and consideration of historic properties for large landscape projects. This is an effort to move urgent projects forward while more effectively considering their effects on historic properties.
The National Programmatic Agreement for Phasing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for Large-Scale Multi-Year Undertakings (Phasing NPA) provides the FS with an alternative approach to phase and defer the Section 106 review process for long-term wildfire prevention, forest health improvement, and other large-scale undertakings.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to consider the effects on historic properties of projects they carry out, assist, fund, permit, license, or approve throughout the country. Section 106 gives the ACHP, interested parties, and the public the chance to weigh in on these matters before a final decision is made.
To meet its multi-use mission of sustaining the productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands, the FS routinely proposes large-scale, multi-year undertakings that pose a challenge to effectively consider their effects on historic properties prior to a decision. The Phasing NPA is a program alternative that modifies the Section 106 process, requiring consultation to begin at the earliest design stages of the undertaking and allows the agency to complete the Section 106 process after a project decision is made, provided the FS develops a Heritage Implementation Plan (HIP) in consultation before the project decision.
The Phasing NPA directs the agency to consult State Historic Preservation Officers, Indian tribes, and other consulting parties at the earliest stages of project planning to develop a HIP, a legally binding document that outlines the Section 106 activities that the agency commits to completing after the project decision, but before project activities occur. As part of the consultation process, the FS is required to consider any proposed activities that enhance cultural resources or historic properties into the project’s design. After the project decision, the FS implements the HIP for areas where project activities will occur, thereby completing the Section 106 process.
“Throughout the development of the Phasing NPA, the ACHP has found the FS’s consultation process to be both thorough and effective, with the FS demonstrating repeatedly its commitment to carefully considering all comments and to making significant changes and improvements to the document in response to such comments,” Vice Chairman Tannenbaum said. “The ACHP looks forward to being involved in the NPA monitoring process and hearing about the successful application of the Phasing NPA on FS undertakings.”
The Phasing NPA is an example of the ACHP’s efforts to offer federal agencies a more flexible approach to ensure the requirements of Section 106 are achieved, and historic preservation concerns are balanced with other federal mission requirements and needs. Section 106 regulations offer program alternatives through which agencies can tailor the Section 106 review process for a group of undertakings or an entire program that may affect historic properties.