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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Fish and Land Bills: H.R. 3981




STATEMENT OF MITCHELL BUTLER,

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS,

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,

OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERNING

H.R. 3981, TO AUTHORIZE THE PRESERVE AMERICA PROGRAM

AND SAVE AMERICA'S TREASURES PROGRAM,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

 

APRIL 24, 2008

 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 3981, the Preserve America and Save America's Treasures Act.   I would also like to thank the sponsors of the bill in both in the Senate and the House for introducing this important legislation.  The administration strongly supports enactment of H.R. 3981. 

The historic and cultural structures and sites in communities throughout the country serve as the backdrop to the stories of our past and inspire the future.  To help ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to experience our past and appreciate our identity as communities and as a Nation, across America people are adapting places once used in bygone eras to modern purposes, as community attractions, places of work, and educational centers.  With these efforts, we are preserving our Nation's culture, history and identity both for the benefit of future generations and for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors today.   Citizens in communities across America are the engine behind this historic preservation. Through a variety of Federal stewardship programs, these efforts have expanded and flourished. Chief among these programs are the complementary Preserve America and Save America's Treasures programs.

Established in 2003, Preserve America is an Administration initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy the country's cultural and natural heritage.  Preserve America fosters reuse and interpretation of cultural resources that form the social, educational and economic fabric of communities.  The goals of the initiative include a greater shared knowledge about our Nation's past, strengthened regional identities, and increased local participation in preservation efforts.

Consider just a few examples of how communities throughout the country are putting these grant dollars to work.  In Fort Smith, Arkansas, local leaders and organizations are developing a marketing plan to promote the historically significant central city area to developers, investors, business, and tourists sparked by a $47,000 Preserve America grant.  Organizers in Gastonia, North Carolina are applying a $29,500 Preserve America grant to the Preserving and Promoting Gastonia's Heritage project.  With these funds, Gastonia will produce wayfinding signs, a walking-tour brochure and updated Gastonia Downtown website to promote Gastonia as a heritage and cultural tourism destination.  The people of Burlington, Vermont are developing a web-based guide to Burlington's cultural and historic resources for travelers, planners and educators with a $94,000 Preserve America grant to promote their unique heritage. 

The Preserve America program has been well received by States and is generating tangible preservation outcomes.  For example, communities in Colorado's southeastern plains, devastated by job loss, are looking to heritage tourism as a means of revitalization.  A $130,000 Preserve America grant to the Colorado Historical Society (in association with the statewide nonprofit, Colorado Preservation, Incorporated) created a partnership among several counties to develop a regional planning and marketing program.  The effort has helped connect a host of local historic and prehistoric sites, including the largest dinosaur track site in North America, and fostered cooperation among federal, state, and local officials, business owners, and non-governmental organizations.  In addition, the participating counties have been designated as a pilot project for Colorado's newly created Heritage Tourism Initiative.  The Preserve America funding, matched by the State of Colorado, has also leveraged additional $355,500 in financial support from local foundations, the counties, and other entities. 

Preserve America does not fund construction, rehabilitation, or restoration of historic resources.  Rather, it supports planning and development of activities and programs in heritage tourism, adaptive re-use, and "living history" programs that may be usefully replicated across the country.  Perhaps most important, it helps to provide needed support for communities (including municipalities, urban neighborhoods, counties, and tribal communities) to fully realize and sustain preservation's benefits.   

Six years ago, the Preserve America initiative was a concept on paper. Today, thanks, in part, to the tremendous efforts of John Nau, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and co-chair of Preserve America, over 600 Preserve America communities representing all 50 states enhance their historic and cultural assets through heritage tourism, education, and preservation. Through John's creativity, the initiative now includes a grant program to support heritage tourism, an award program to honor outstandingpartners in historic preservation, and a national history-teacher-of-the-year award. These accomplishments could not have occurred without John Nau's vision, tireless focus on implementation, and ability to inspire partners across the Nation.  While we recognize that in the interest of time Chairman Nau is not testifying before you today, the ACHP has prepared a Statement for the Record that I urge you to also carefully consider as you review this important legislation.

The Save America's Treasures (SAT) grant program is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of America's priceless historic legacy.  The program also complements the planning and development support of preservation offered by Preserve America.  The SAT grant program funds "bricks and mortar" improvements to important cultural and historic landmarks and irreplaceable collections in every corner of the country.  This national effort, created by Executive Order in 1998, recognizes and protects America's threatened cultural treasures, including historic structures, collections, works of art, and maps and journals that document and illuminate the history and culture of the United States.

These competitive grants encourage sustainable historic resource management and make these enduring symbols of the American tradition more accessible to scholars and the public through exhibits, traditional publications, and websites.  The Save America's Treasures grants have educated the public on preservation challenges at the buildings, sites, monuments, objects and documents that represent America's diverse cultural legacy and supported preservation of historic collections and properties.

Over 1,000 Save America's Treasures matching grants have been, or are in the process of being awarded to Federal agencies, State, local and tribal governments, and nonprofit institutions.  Administered by the National Park Service, grants are awarded competitively, with individual projects only eligible for one grant, and with all grants requiring a dollar for dollar local match.  

Among the accomplishments of the Save America's Treasures grant program is restoration of the home of American Industrialist Henry Ford and his wife, now a National Historic Landmark, located in Dearborn, MI.  The Fords lived there from its construction in 1915-16 until their deaths in the 1940s.  The National Historic Landmark received $350,000 in Save America's Treasures funds to repair the deteriorating steam-heating system, which had caused damage to the building and its collections.

In Colorado, the Georgetown Schoolhouse, was a contributing building in the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District, which preserves much of the flavor of the early mining era of the West.   The Schoolhouse received $150,000 grant from Save America's Treasures to address deterioration of the building envelope.

Finally,Woodrow Wilson Hall, on the campus of Monmouth University in New Jersey received $100,000 to assist with the structural repairs to the monumental portico.   Built in 1927, this Beaux-Arts style National Historic Landmark was the home of the president of the F.W. Woolworth Company and sits on the site where Woodrow Wilson delivered his party's acceptance speech for the 1916 Presidential campaign.

Together, these programs generate community partnerships, economic and educational opportunities, and the promotion of historical and cultural tourism.  Both Preserve America and Save America's Treasures promote better coordination and, therefore, greater efficiencies in meeting existing preservation needs. They also expand future opportunities by allowing local stakeholders to determine which strategies best meet their goals. 

H.R. 3981 would authorize both the Preserve America and the Save America's Treasures programs, making them permanent resources for citizens and civic organizations engaged in historic preservation activities.  Since their creation, both programs have been sustained through the annual appropriations process. However, without permanent authorization, they lack the foundation for sustained success.  Without the "stamp of legitimacy" achieved by the Congressional legislative process, both programs, despite their records of success, remain vulnerable to termination.  The legislation would institutionalize the Preserve America and Save America Treasures programs and cement them as permanent tools for protecting our Nation's cultural resources.

The results are clear.  Both programs have demonstrated significant on-the-ground success in fostering preservation partnerships, leveraging private dollars with public funds, and sustaining efficient resource management strategies and sound business practices in the preservation of our heritage assets.  These grants and designations give citizens in communities across the country good reason to say "Welcome to my town!" They provide communities greater opportunity to realize economic development through historic preservation and the celebration of the rich heritage and unique stories of the American experience.   

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify on these programs and this legislation.  I would be happy to answer any questions.