Preservation Action: Historic Preservation Fund Part IV

Following is the fourth installment in a series provided by Preservation Action (a 501c4 nonprofit organization created in 1974 to serve as the national grassroots lobby for historic preservation) regarding the national Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). As in previous installments, the answers will probably surprise you:

What is the current, unexpended balance in the HPF?
According to the United States Treasury Department the current estimated balance at the end of FY2009 will be $2.7 billion. Yes, BILLION with a “B”. The fund has grown steadily over time, accruing offshore oil lease revenue, and $150 million is authorized to be spent each year on HPF programs. Only the annual appropriated amounts may be withdrawn. Technically, the $2.7 billion balance may not be used for any other purpose than to fund the nation’s preservation program.

Congress has largely ignored this commitment to America’s heritage. Indeed, almost from the beginning, Congress has never lived up to its promise to adequately fund historic preservation. It is up to us to persuade and remind Congress of the merits of historic preservation – of its important role in the economic health, livability and heritage of our communities. Without our support and attention HPF programs are threatened and may well be eliminated due to underfunding.

Since 2001, funding appropriated to the HPF has been reduced from $94 million to $71 million. The reduction has had a severe impact on State Historic Preservation Offices. Funding to SHPOs dropped nearly 30% between 2001 and 2003, and this reduction was maintained for years. This decline, coupled with unprecedented state budget cuts is proving catastrophic in many communities. President Obama’s FY2010 budget proposes $46.5 million for SHPOs – up $4 million from FY2009 which would return SHPO funding to its 2001 level.

Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) are also suffering greatly from lack of adequate funding. The proposed FY 2010 budget calls for the THPOs to receive $8 million – up $1 million from FY2009. The THPO program began with 12 tribal governments each receiving an average award of $79,875. In FY2009, 16 new THPOs were added to the existing 76 THPOs that sought funding in FY2009.

While a $1 million proposed increase sounds like a success, that funding must be divided and shared by many more tribes than ever before.The economic stimulus package now providing funds for capital projects throughout the United States provided NO additional funding for the States or Tribes even though it is likely that many of the projects funded by the stimulus monies will require review by the Tribal and State Historic Preservation Offices. Funds appropriated for Hurricane recovery in 2006 did contain additional funds needed by those affected states to ramp up their ability to carry out the required project reviews.

What is at stake?

Under-funding seriously jeopardizes the federal preservation program and by extension State and local preservation efforts. As the dollars and staff sizes shrink in the SHPOs and THPOs difficult choices must be made. There may be no alternative but to realign priorities and eliminate discretionary programs — public education, support for private sector non-profits, site visits to communities, marketing the rehabilitation tax credit — in order to have sufficient resources to address the activities about which SHPOs have no discretion: responding to rehabilitation tax credit applications, and commenting on Section 106 cases. Further, HPF reductions also lengthen response times for such reviews — the work load remains constant while the number of qualified staff declines.

These examples — and there are many more — illustrate the debilitating consequences of under funding and serve to suggest the incredible advances that full funding could secure. At a time when Americans, like never before, are searching to understand and celebrate the hallmarks of our democracy and our unique American experience, we have to hold the federal government to its responsibilities put into law decades ago. There is much that YOU can do.

Have you contacted your legislator lately?
Each year preservationists are called upon to defend the federal historic preservation program and this year is certainly no exception. We are demanded to explain the value and importance of this program that is constantly under attack – or is simply misunderstood. Recent feedback from our March 2009 Lobby Day tells us that there are still misconceptions that exist surrounding the HPF. We must show the best and worst case scenarios – what has the program allowed to occur? What progress has been made? What might have been destroyed had it not been for the programs that the fund enables? Preservation funding is continually pitted against numerous other worthwhile endeavors.

We must continually educate our members of Congress and their staff about the HPF programs and its dedicated fund. This funding and program is not a so-called “earmark.” The annual appropriation withdraws a small amount from a very large fund of existing money that cannot by law be used for any other purpose. Our perennial “asks” come directly from this fund. There is no “offset” that must be designated. This money is not being ripped away from another worthy cause or recipient.

Tell them about the important work that the HPF supports in THEIR district. There is perhaps no better illustration of the impact and effectiveness of the HPF than local, shining examples of the HPF at work. Every district has them – make sure your legislator is supplied with images, facts and figures about them. HPF-funded programs have established a successful set of incentives, regulations, and assistance that foster local decision making and direct private investment to maximize the viability of existing resources.

Many activities are made possible by the HPF, but their effectiveness is increasingly compromised by staff layoffs, lack of funds for survey and documentation work, and slow turn around times for reviews and certifications. Specific examples of how these programs work in your community, and illustrations of the tremendous need for such programs will help you reinforce the importance of adequate, increased funding for the States, Tribes and territories through the Historic Preservation Fund.

Preservation Action: Historic Preservation Fund Part III

The latest installment in the Q & A series from Preservation Action regarding the federal Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) answers the following:

How much money is deposited annually into the HPF?

At its inception 24.4 million was authorized for FY 1977 with 100 million annually in 1978 and 1979. From FY 1980 onward, the fund has received annual deposits of $150 million. The authorized funds deposited into the HPF are, however, subject to the appropriation process. Unexpended funds are to remain in the HPF until appropriated.

Bonus question: How was that amount ($150 million) determined?

The answer comes to us compliments of Loretta Neumann and Nellie Longsworth. Neumann, long time staff person to Rep. John F. Seiberling (D-OH), was with the National Park Service prior to joining Seiberling’s staff. Longsworth, a founder and first President of Preservation Action, was President of Preservation Action for 22 years and continues as an honorary member of its Board of Directors.

The HPF was added as an amendment to House legislation that Rep. Seiberling introduced in 1974 to triple the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) from $300 million per year to $900 million per year. The LWCF funds federal and state outdoor recreation and land acquisition programs with revenues derived from federal receipts from Outer Continental Shelf oil leasing. During the markup, Rep. Seiberling was asked if he were willing to have the HPF added to it, plus a few other provisions. He agreed to the suggestion.

As a staff person to Rep. Seiberling, Neumann drafted the House of Representatives bill that would amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Longsworth (who was lobbying for passage of the bill on behalf of Preservation Action) and Neumann recently recalled a meeting with a staff member from Legislative Counsel who was reviewing Seiberling’s bill. The House of Representatives Office of Legislative Counsel provides confidential and impartial drafting services and advice for House Members and House Committees.

The Legislative Counsel staff person threw out a number and said, “Let’s say $150 million.” Neumann and Longsworth enthusiastically replied, “Terrific!” They never imagined that this seemingly enormous amount (at the time) would remain intact as the amount deposited still today.

Preservation Action: Historic Preservation Fund Part II

In a follow-up question regarding the federal Historic Preservation Fund, Preservation Action members were asked: What is the source of funding for the HPF? The answer will probably surprise you:

Preparations for the nation’s bicentennial prompted a heightened sense of national pride in the 1970s. This swell of activity promoted a desire to preserve our nation’s heritage and its buildings. That enthusiasm was tempered, however, by high unemployment rates, a struggling economy, energy shortages and a resulting desire for energy independence. Lawmakers were eager to make energy more available and looked to Great Britain as an example and its offshore drilling activities in the North Sea. The HPF receives its annual deposit from off shore oil lease reserves.

Off-shore drilling funds our national preservation program?

Here is the justification: Federal lands include those on the outer continental shelf and oil companies pay for the right to drill for oil on those lands off the coast of the United States. The exploitation of one valuable resource supports investment in another. This is the thrust of the HPF – and also the Land and Water Conservation Fund after which the HPF was modeled. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965 (PL 88-578). A share of proceeds from the consumption of one non-renewable natural resource (oil) is reinvested in our man-made historic and cultural resources.

Preservation Action: Historic Preservation Fund Part I

Preservation Action recently asked its members a trivia question about when the federal Historic Preservation Fund was established. Below is their answer:

When was the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) established? Bonus points: What was the historic context?

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA P.L. 89-665, codified at16 U.S.C. 470) laid out the basic framework of the federal preservation program and set out to preserve the nation’s cultural resources. In implementing the Act, the Secretary of the Interior turned to the governors and asked them to partner in the new program to preserve the nation’s heritage. The NHPA also required that all funds appropriated to the States be matched, further solidifying the Federal-State partnership. Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) were later funded by the HPF beginning in FY1996.

The NHPA of 1966 did not, however, establish the HPF.

In 1976, Congress went a significant step further, specifically authorizing the establishment of the HPF thus creating a dedicated funding source to carry out the provisions of the NHPA. The establishment of the HPF in the United States Treasury was one of the key provisions of Public Law 94-422 that amended and enhanced the NHPA of 1966. Senator Henry M. Jackson (D-WA) sponsored the bill that established the HPF in 1976. Jackson was also the sponsor of the bill that became the NHPA of 1966.

The HPF sets aside dedicated funds to support the programs and activities that were identified ten years earlier in the NHPA. Until the HPF was established, the mandates of the NHPA unfortunately were severely underfunded.

Housed in the Library of Congress, testimony surrounding the establishment of the HPF provides much insight to the current state of the American historic preservation movement. In a July 30, 1974 letter of testimony in support of the establishment of the HFP Tersh Boasberg, one of Preservation Action’s founders, stated, “Over 50% of the 12,000 buildings recorded in the Historic Buildings Survey since 1933 have been destroyed.”

The early 1970s saw eager anticipation and a swell of activity in preparation for our nation’s Bicentennial. A heightened sense of pride existed and a desire to preserve our nation’s heritage and its buildings. Coupled with the outrage at the number of significant American buildings that had been lost, the establishment of the HPF was indeed a needed response that added enormous strength to the nation’s historic preservation program.

About Preservation Action: Preservation Action is a 501c4 nonprofit organization created in 1974 to serve as the national grassroots lobby for historic preservation. Preservation Action seeks to make historic preservation a national priority by advocating to all branches of the federal government for sound preservation policy and programs through a grassroots constituency empowered with information and training and through direct contact with elected representatives.