H.R. 6589

Historic Preservation Enhancement Act


April 28, 2022

Chair Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s testimony regarding H.R. 6589, a bill to amend Title 54, United States Code, to reauthorize deposits to the Historic Preservation Fund.

The Department supports H.R. 6589 with recommended amendments.

H.R. 6589 permanently reauthorizes and increases annual amounts to be deposited into the Historic Preservation Fund from $150 to $300 million. It makes amounts deposited each year available for expenditure without further appropriation or fiscal year limitation. The bill requires that if revenues due to the United States from offshore oil and gas leases are insufficient, the difference shall be deposited from the General Treasury. It requires the President to submit annually to Congress detailed program allocations for expenditure of funds and allows for alternate allocations by appropriations acts. The bill also requires the President to submit an annual report to Congress that describes the final allocation by program and project.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 set the federal vision for historic preservation in the United States. The Historic Preservation Fund was established in 1977 to provide financial assistance to states to carry out preservation responsibilities required by the National Historic Preservation Act. Amounts deposited to the Historic Preservation Fund are derived from revenue collected from federal offshore oil and gas development and is an expression of the federal commitment to America's rich heritage, investing more than $2.7 billion in communities across the nation. The current authorization for deposits into the fund expires September 30, 2023.

As the administrator of the Historic Preservation Fund, by delegation from the Secretary of the Interior, the National Park Service facilitates the allocation of federal grants to states, tribes, local governments, and nonprofit partners to carry out preservation work across the country. A portion of each annual appropriation supports 59 State Historic Preservation Offices, 208 Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, and over 2,080 Certified Local Governments. These partners in the Federal Preservation Program help to administer the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit, the National Register of Historic Places, review and compliance under Section 106, survey and inventory of historic resources, preservation planning for their state or tribe, assistance with physical preservation projects, management of covenants and easements, leadership of their state’s Certified Local Government program, and administration of the federal grant funds allotted to them. Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, which assume selected State Historic Preservation Office responsibilities on tribal land, use this annual funding to protect tribal cultural resources and support the review of federal projects.

State and tribal partnerships supported through the Historic Preservation Fund were responsible for surveying over 8.5 million acres, listing over 1,170 sites, and reviewing over 275,000 federal undertakings in FY 2021. Funding for states and Tribes enables them to serve a vital role in the review of federal projects under Section 106 and ensure that federal agencies consider the effects of projects they carry out, approve, or fund on historic properties. Using survey and National Register listings as planning tools also enable these partners to provide effective and efficient guidance for federal projects, keeping federal investment in communities moving forward with limited harm to our collective history.

One of the most recognized programs supported through the Historic Preservation Fund is the federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program. With over 47,000 completed projects since its enactment in 1976, the program has leveraged over $116 billion in private investment in the rehabilitation of historic properties. From Main Streets to central cities, the program has consistently been a strong catalyst for job creation and economic growth in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In addition to annual funding to legislated partners, the National Park Service administers several Congressionally created competitive grant programs funded by the Historic Preservation Fund. Totaling $84.1 million in FY 2022, these competitive programs address different types of preservation needs across the country. Grant programs include African American Civil Rights, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, History of Equal Rights, Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization, Semiquincentennial, Save America’s Treasures, Tribal Heritage, and Underrepresented Communities.

Historic Preservation Fund competitive grant programs ensure that more diverse American stories are being preserved, including representation of African American, American Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native, Native American, women and LGBTQ sites in the National Register of Historic Places and among National Historic Landmarks.

Grant programs such as African American Civil Rights, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and History of Equal Rights, provide planning and physical preservation assistance, expanding our ability to preserve underrepresented historic places. Through these programs the Historic Preservation Fund has preserved sites and stories related to the struggle of all Americans to gain equal rights.

The Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization program focuses on preservation in rural communities across the country, targeting community resources that can provide future economic development. The new Semiquincentennial program is working to preserve state-owned properties associated with the founding of the Nation. Save America’s Treasures continues its 20-year history of preserving nationally significant sites and collections across the country.

Tribal Heritage Grants preserve and promote the unique cultural traditions of federally recognized Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, and Native Hawaiian Organizations. These grants fund the preservation of sacred places, the documentation of traditional culture and crafts, the recording of oral histories with elders, and the preservation of tribal languages.

The Underrepresented Communities competitive grants specifically target diversifying listings in the National Register of Historic Places by funding surveys and nominations of historic properties, as well as amending older nominations to include a more complete history.

As proposed, H.R. 6589 would demonstrate an ongoing commitment of support for operations at the 267 offices and for the hundreds of state and tribal employees the Historic Preservation Fund supports. Historic and cultural resources are being created every day, as history does not stop, and permanent reauthorization would show a commitment to the preservation of the American story for future generations.

The $150 million annual authorization of deposits to the Historic Preservation Fund has not changed since1980. FY 2022 is the first time that regular appropriations met or exceeded this amount. The scope of the preservation partnership program has grown overtime through amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act. The Certified Local Government program was created in 1980 for communities that make a local commitment to historic preservation and become official partners. They receive access to 10% of each state’s annual allocation and have grown to over 2,080 communities. Tribal Historic Preservation Offices were created by amendment in 1990, and have grown to 208, with 5 to 10 added each year. Beginning in 1998, competitive grant programs have been appropriated, with 8 currently funded. Finally, inflation has reduced the buying power of the same dollar amounts for the state, tribal, and local partners over time. An increase in deposits and appropriations could restore the impact and reach of the Historic Preservation Fund to the level intended upon its creation.

The Department does have concerns with some provisions in H.R. 6589. As written, the bill would not allow partial apportionments to State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices under continuing resolutions. Most State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices rely on these funds to pay their staff, so a delayed annual apportionment could present a significant challenge. Additionally, the bill’s reporting requirement may be duplicative of the National Park Service’s annual reports that are made public. The Department welcomes the opportunity to work with the bill’s sponsor and the committee on amendments to address these concerns.

The Historic Preservation Fund is the primary federal funding source directed towards carrying out the National Historic Preservation Act, the cornerstone of our nation’s public policy on historic preservation. The Historic Preservation Fund’s permanent reauthorization would continue the more than 50-year national preservation partnership program at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels, and to continue to preserve our shared national history for all Americans, current and future. The work accomplished by this fund in preserving our national identity is just as important now as it was when the Fund was created and should continue into the future.

Chair Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you and other members of the subcommittee may have.

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