The ACHP is monitoring recent bills that have been introduced or acted upon in Congress that could affect the preservation of historic properties.
Preservation-Related Programs, Funding, and Impacts
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Public Law 116-6)
In December 2018, funding lapsed for several federal agencies including the Department of the Interior and related agencies such as the ACHP. The subsequent partial government shutdown ended on February 15 when this funding bill became law. Preservation fared very well in the legislation. The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) received a record-breaking $102.66 million, a $5.75 million increase over FY 2018. The specific breakdown of the HPF funding is summarized below:
- State Historic Preservation Offices: $49.675 million
- Tribal Historic Preservation Offices: $11.735 million
- Civil Rights Competitive Grants: $14.5 million
- Underrepresented Communities Grants: $750,000
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities Preservation Grants: $8 million
- Save America’s Treasures Grants: $13 million
- Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program: $5M
In the National Park Service (NPS) budget, the Heritage Partnership Program received $20.31 million in funding to support National Heritage Areas.
The President’s proposed budget for FY 2020 was sent to Congress on March 11. Proposed funding for the ACHP is $7 million, $110,000 more than in FY 2019. Significant cuts are proposed for National Park Service preservation related programs. These are summarized below, with a comparison to enacted FY 2019 figures.
- HPF Total: $32.672 million (- $69.988)
- SHPOs: $26.934 million (- $22.741)
- THPOs: $5.738 million (- $5.997)
- All the other HPF grants programs funded in FY 2019 would be zeroed out.
Other programs that would be zeroed out include: Heritage Partnership Program (for National Heritage Areas); Japanese-American Confinement Site Grants; American Indian & Native Hawaiian Art & Culture Grants; Native American Graves Protection Act Grants; Non-Land and Water Conservation Fund American Battlefield Program Matching Grants; and Chesapeake Bay Gateway Grants.
John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (Public Law 116-9)
This bill, previously known as the Natural Resources Management Act, is an omnibus bill that contains more than 100 measures protecting natural and cultural resources, and that is being hailed as a landmark piece of conservation legislation. The bill came close to passage in the previous Congress and was reintroduced in the Senate on January 8. It passed the Senate on February 12, and then passed the House on February 26. On March 12, the bill was signed into law by President Trump. Of particular note for preservationists, the act permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund and reauthorizes the Historically Black Colleges and Universities historic preservation grant program through 2024.
This bill would expand funding and extend authorization for the Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant Program, which provides grants for acquisition of parcels associated with Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War battlefields. The bill would double the annual funding authorization to $20 million and extend the program to 2028.
Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (H.R. 66)
This bill was passed by the House on February 6. It would create a commission to study and make recommendations to Congress on activities to honor and promote Route 66. Celebrating its centennial in 2026, Route 66 was America’s first all-paved highway under the U.S. Highway System connecting the Midwest to California. The bill also would require the Department of Transportation to prepare a plan on the preservation needs of Route 66 that would be submitted to Congress and the President.
National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 1049)
This bill would provide a formal program structure for the current ad hoc system of National Heritage Area designation and oversight. It would create national standards and processes for conducting feasibility studies, designating National Heritage Areas, and approving heritage area management plans.
Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act (H.R. 729)
This bill would amend the Coastal Zone Management Act to authorize grants to Indian tribes for activities in tribal coastal zones. Authorized objectives for use of the grant funds would include preservation of areas in the tribal coastal zone that have ecological, cultural, or sacred significance for the tribe or traditional, historic, and esthetic values essential to the tribe.
Stewardship of Federal Lands and Properties
These bills would create a fund from federal energy development revenues to address the deferred maintenance backlog at Department of the Interior properties, including historic properties. Up to $1.3 billion a year for five years would be deposited into the fund. The National Park Service would receive 100 percent of the fund in the Restore Our Parks Act and 80 percent in the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act. Under the latter bill, 10 percent of the fund would go to the Fish and Wildlife Service, 5 percent to the Bureau of Land Management, and 5 percent to the Bureau of Indian Education schools. Both bills were introduced in the last Congress, and substantial progress was made toward a bipartisan agreement. The Congress ended prior to the last negotiations being completed, and the bills have been reintroduced.
Advancing Conservation and Education Act (H.R. 244)
This bill addresses the issue of western state trust lands that are located within federal conservation areas and thus essentially are not of use to the states. It would establish a new mechanism for the states to relinquish such inholdings and then allow the states to subsequently select certain Bureau of Land Management administered lands for acquisition. The bill states that it does not alter the application of Section 106 review and other environmental laws, and sets up a process for consulting with tribes regarding traditional cultural properties.
This bill would repeal a provision in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that authorized a land swap between the U.S. Forest Service and the private company Resolution Copper. The company plans to mine for copper on the land that previously was part of Tonto National Forest. Known as Oak Flat, the area contains sites of traditional religious and cultural significance to the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which is leading an effort to stop the proposed mine and reverse the land exchange.
Building a More Inclusive Preservation Program
African American Burial Grounds Network Act (H.R. 1179)
This bill would create a National Park Service program called the African American Burial Grounds Network. to coordinate and facilitate federal and non-federal activities to identify, interpret, preserve, and record African American burial grounds. Many of these graveyards are unmarked, abandoned, or in need of preservation. The program would include creation of a database of such sites and development of educational materials. NPS would be authorized to make grants and provide technical assistance.
Historic Preservation Tax Incentives
Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act (H.R. 158)
This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow public school buildings to qualify for the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit.
Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act (H.R. 292)
This bill seeks to streamline broadband infrastructure permitting on certain federal lands. Under the bill, states and tribes would be able to assume all or part of federal review responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act for permitting of broadband and wireless projects in highway rights-of-way on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service lands. The bill also calls on BLM and the Forest Service to enter into agreements with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers to coordinate and expedite permitting decisions.
This bill would support support federal, state, and non-governmental collaboration in the construction and development of carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration facilities and carbon dioxide pipelines. Among other provisions, the bill would clarify that such facilities and pipelines are eligible for an expedited permitting review process. The bill also would direct the Council on Environmental Quality to develop a report and guidance on federal review and permitting of these projects. The guidance is to address several environmental statutes including the National Historic Preservation Act.
Regulatory Reform and Streamlining
Reducing Environmental Barriers to Unified Infrastructure and Land Development (REBUILD) Act (H.R. 363)
This bill would permit shifting of environmental review responsibilities from federal agencies to the states. It would authorize federal agencies to assign their National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities to states, both for individual projects and for classes of projects. When a state assumes such responsibilities, the federal agency also would be authorized to assign to that state all or part of the agency's responsibilities under any federal environmental law. Agencies that would have assignment authority are the Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Corps of Engineers. However, the law also would apply to any federal agency with a project that requires an Environmental Impact Statement.
Opportunities for the Nation and States to Harness Onshore Resources for Energy (ONSHORE) Act (S. 218)
This bill would allow states to manage specific aspects of oil and gas development permitting on certain Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands that have been identified as available for oil and gas leasing. Environmental review is not specifically discussed, but presumably would likewise be delegated to the states. In addition, state regulations, guidance, and permit requirements for hydraulic fracturing would take the place of federal regulations for fracking on federal land.
Designation of National Monuments
This bill would require that National Monuments established by Presidents between January 1996 and October 2018 have management plans. The bill also would create the National Monument Enhancement Fund with authorized funding of $100 million a year. The fund would be available to pay for the development of management plans for presidentially designated National Monuments, federal land acquisition and development, and enhancement of the recreational infrastructure in presidentially designated National Monuments. The bill would reverse President Trump’s controversial reduction in the size of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (The bill would go even further and expand the boundaries of Bears Ears to include previously undesignated lands that were part of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition’s initial proposal to the Obama Administration.) The bill also states the sense of Congress that only Congress can reduce or revoke a National Monument designation.
National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 1664)
This bill would amend the Antiquities Act and make major changes to the current process for designating and managing National Monuments. The bill would limit what is eligible for designation, place constraints on the size of monuments, and curtail the President’s ability to act unilaterally to designate a monument. The bill also would give the President codified authority to reduce the size of existing National Monuments and to make an emergency temporary designation of a National Monument to prevent imminent and irreparable harm to objects of antiquity.
A bill to prohibit designation of National Monuments in Arizona except by authorization of Congress (H.R.79)
This bill would prevent unilateral Presidential designation of National Monuments in Arizona.
Protect Utah’s Rural Economy Act (S. 90)
This bill would prevent unilateral Presidential designation of National Monuments in Utah. Both Congress and the state legislature would have to agree to such designation.
Bears Ears Expansion And Respect for Sovereignty Act (H.R. 871)
This bill would reverse President Trump’s reduction in the size of Bears Ears National Monument. The bill would go further and expand the boundaries of the National Monument to include previously undesignated lands that were part of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition’s initial proposal to the Obama Administration.