A Very Busy May for Governmental Affairs

May was an eventful month for the Society for Historical Archeology’s Governmental Affairs Committee and SHA’s government affairs counsel, Cultural Heritage Partners. A number of proposals were introduced and discussed in both houses of Congress. While these changes are intended to make aspects of historic preservation easier and more efficient, they fall woefully short in the eyes of the archeological community and can endanger historic preservation.

  • Section 1303 of the “MAP-21 Reauthorization Act,” which is the reauthorization of the current transportation legislation, proposes to use the Section 106 process as a means to fulfill some of the current requirements of Section 4(f) of the transportation act.  The goal is to reduce what is perceived as duplication between Section 106 and Section 4(f).
  • The Military LAND Act (Section 2816 in NDAA, H.R. 4435) would amend the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by allowing any federal agency that manages property to block or revoke the listing of a historic property on the National Register of Historic Places, as a National Historic Landmark or on the World Heritage List by invoking “reasons of national security.”
  • The FIRST Act (H.R. 4186) would create of a new level of review at the National Science Foundation to determine if research is worthy of federal funding and “in the national interest.” The House also amended the appropriations bill for NSF to include a provision shifting millions of dollars from social sciences to physical sciences.
  • NPS is considering a proposal to amend the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) to include “landscapes” as a property type and “landscape architecture” as an area of significance. SHA sent a letter to Stephanie Toothman stating its reasons for opposing the proposal, and will meet with her in June.

SHA has submitted several letters addressing the proposals, explaining why they damage historic preservation, or are ineffective or simply unnecessary. SHA does not stand alone in its opposition. The American Cultural Resources Association joined with SHA against the proposed changes to Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. The Department of Defense provided testimony on the Military LAND Act, stating that it is unwanted and unnecessary; the Preservation Partners are also opposing Section 2816 in the NDAA (formerly the Military LAND Act).

SHA and Cultural Heritage Partners are working to avoid these potentially expensive and unnecessary changes. We want to keep Congress from fixing what isn’t broken.