About Cultural Heritage Partners

Marion Werkheiser is an attorney with Cultural Heritage Partners, which serves as the government affairs consultant to the Society for Historical Archaeology.

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.

Congressional Attack on National Science Foundation Funding: FIRST Act Moves To Next Phase

by Eden Burgess

On March 13, 2014, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act, or FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), was referred to the full Committee on Science, Space, and Technology for the next phase towards passage by the House.

The FIRST Act, introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee, and Larry Bucshon (R-IN), addresses funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The bill particularly targets social science funding, originally proposing 42% cuts to the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE). Amendments made during markup softened the cuts to the SBE somewhat, reducing funding (to $200M) by 22% from FY14 levels. The SBE Directorate supports “research that builds fundamental knowledge of human behavior, interaction, and social and economic systems, organizations and institutions.” Archaeological projects typically fall within SBE’s purview.

NSF’s Board took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the pending legislation, saying in a statement released on April 24 that “some of its provisions and tone suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose.”

SHA has already taken steps to oppose cuts like those proposed in the FIRST Act, circulating a change.org petition in December 2013 asking that signers express their support for public funding of archaeological research. In April, before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s hearing “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments,” SHA submitted testimony expressing its support for NSF funding. We believe that archaeological research funded by NSF and other public organizations:

  • Brings together the economic benefits of preservation, heritage tourism, and job opportunities in  a variety of fields (cultural resources management, museums, academia and others)
  • Provides unique educational and enrichment opportunities for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds
  • Gives voice to everyday Americans who may not otherwise appear in mainstream historical narratives
  • Promotes career paths in the sciences

Urge your Representative to vote against the FIRST Act, and tell him/her that Archaeology Matters! (Find your Rep here.)

 

From the Society for Historical Archaeology’s Governmental Affairs Counsel

SHA Members’ Congressional Visits

Thanks to those of you who participated in Cultural Heritage Partners’ July webinar, “Making Our Voices Heard During August Recess.” An even bigger thanks to members who followed through and visited with members of Congress and their staffers, as well as members of state and local government! If you met with, called or had contact with your Representative or Senator in August, please share your results with Cultural Heritage Partners’ so we can keep track of results and any needed follow-up.

Congress Update

Possible Shutdown?

As tonight’s September 30 end-of-fiscal-year approaches, the House and Senate continue their arguing over the budget and Obamacare. A short-term spending bill (a continuing resolution, or CR) has to pass by midnight to avoid a government shutdown. The shutdown would affect a broad range of services, including forcing a closure of national parks and museums. Seemingly desperate to reach an agreement, Senate Republicans today floated the idea of a 1-week stopgap measure, which their Democrat colleagues seemed unwilling to support. Should a shutdown happen, it is likely to go no more than a few days. The longest shutdown in history lasted 21 days, from December 16, 1995 through January 5, 1996.

A related issue looming on the horizon is the debt: Congress will have to vote to raise the ceiling in mid-October, when Treasury estimates the U.S. will hit the permissible limit.

Syria

Taking most of members’ time until recently was deciding whether to authorize action against Syria, in light of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. After seeing low public and Congressional support, President Obama asked the Senate not to vote on air strikes, and is instead pursuing a diplomatic solution with Russia.

Inside Syria, the war is having a serious adverse effect on archaeology. As the New York Times reported in April, “the country’s archaeological heritage is imperiled by war, facing threats ranging from outright destruction by bombs and bullets to opportunistic digging by treasure hunters who take advantage of the power vacuum to prowl the country with spades and shovels.”

NPS Kicks Off Centennial Website

To celebrate its 100th anniversary coming up in 2016, the National Park Service is inviting the submission of ideas through its “Next Century For Parks” website. Designed to be the home of the parks community, the public is asked to share ideas, successes and solutions for America’s national parks, today and for the next one hundred years, through the new website. NPS is looking for big, creative ideas that can become signature centennial programs. The deadline for consideration is October 20, 2013. You can check out the site here.