National Historic Preservation Act

With passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 1966, Congress made the federal government a full partner and a leader in historic preservation. In the words of the NHPA, the federal government's role is to "provide leadership" for preservation, "contribute to" and "give maximum encouragement" to preservation, and "foster conditions under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony."  Indeed, an underlying motivation for passage of the NHPA was to transform the federal government from an agent of indifference, frequently responsible for needless loss of historic resources, to a facilitator, an agent of thoughtful change, and a responsible steward for future generations.

The ACHP was created by the NHPA, as was the "Section 106 process." Section 106 of the NHPA requires that federal agencies take into account the effects of their actions on historic properties and give the ACHP an opportunity to comment on any effects. The ACHP has issued regulations that guide how agencies should fulfill this responsibility.

ACHP Advises Congress 

One of the ACHP's primary statutory responsibilities is to advise the President and Congress on historic preservation matters. A key way of fulfilling this responsibility is to comment on pending legislation. At its March 2023 meeting, the ACHP approved a set of priorities that the agency will focus on when offering advice to the 118th Congress on actions affecting the nation’s historic properties. These priorities are:

  1. Supporting preservation-friendly programs and funding
  2. Reauthorizing, making permanent, and increasing the Historic Preservation Fund
  3. Promoting consideration of historic properties in the federal response to climate change, as discussed in the ACHP’s Climate Change and Historic Preservation Policy Statement
  4. Supporting designation or protection of historic properties that reflect the full American story and discouraging proposals that would destroy or diminish diverse histories
  5. Supporting preservation of historic properties in community development, including in creation of affordable housing
  6. Maintaining and enhancing tax incentives for historic preservation
  7. Balancing regulatory/permitting reform and streamlining with protection of historic properties
  8. Digitizing and mapping known resources subject to Section 106 processes, and expanding survey work of unknown/undocumented resources
  9. Addressing the impacts of accelerated infrastructure development on historic properties
  10. Fostering stewardship of historic properties on federal lands or under federal management.

Other Federal Preservation Legislation

While the National Historic Preservation Act is the most comprehensive federal law dealing with historic preservation, there are numerous other statutes that relate to various aspects of the federal historic preservation program. These range from the protection of archaeological sites on Federal lands, to the recognition of properties of traditional cultural or religious significance to Native Americans, to protection of historic shipwrecks. For a full list of these laws, visit the National Park Service's web page, Federal Historic Preservation Laws, Regulations, and Orders.

These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; if they are not ACHP links, they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by the ACHP of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual. The ACHP bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Please contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content, including its privacy policies.
The ACHP advises the President and Congress on historic preservation issues, particularly in the context of federal policy and legislation.

Executive Orders

Several Executive Orders address historic preservation. Executive Orders are issued by the President to federal agencies regarding operations of the federal government. They remain in force unless they are revoked.

  1. This order moves to accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners, and avoid affecting the physical integrity of those sites in any adverse way.
  2. The Preserve America Executive Order directs federal agencies to advance the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of federal historic properties and to promote partnerships for the preservation and use of historic properties, particularly through heritage tourism.
  3. The Federal Government has undertaken various efforts to revitalize central cities, which have historically served as centers for growth and commerce in metropolitan areas. Executive Order 13006 directs federal agencies to utilize and maintain, wherever operationally appropriate and economically prudent, historic properties and districts, especially those located in central business areas.
  4. In order to protect and restore rivers and their adjacent communities, the American Heritage Rivers initiative has three objectives: natural resource and environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation.
  5. By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications, to strengthen the United States government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes,