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.)

 

#WhyArchMatters: What You’re Saying

Last week, we launched our first-ever online petition to send a message to US Representatives Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith to continue supporting publicly funded archaeology. This has been part of a month-long effort to raise awareness about their threats to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) support of social science research, in particular their opposition to archaeological research.

You can sign the petition here.

As of Sunday morning, we have reached our first goal of 500 signatures. The response from the archaeological community has been overwhelming. But we want more: we’ve set a new goal of 1,000 signatures. To reach this goal, we need more than your signature, we need your help to communicate the importance of publicy funded archaeology to people outside the archaeological community. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Share the petition on social media with your friends and colleagues. Be sure to tell them why archaeology is important to you and our country.
  2. Share the petition with the other archaeological organizations that you belong to, large and small, and encourage them to share it with their membership.
  3. Include a link to the petition in your newsletters or emails to the members of the general public who support your museums, historical societies, avocational groups, or archaeological organization. Tell them why publicly funded archaeology is important to the work that your organization does, and request their support.
  4. Email this to your family members, asking them for their support. Let them know that publicly funded archaeology supports the museums they visit and provides jobs for archaeologists just like you.
  5. Share the petition with your co-workers. Let them know how publicly supported archaeology helps your business or place of employment. Encourage them to sign and share.

A number of you have left comments with your signatures, letting us know #WhyArchMatters to you, and why it should be publicly supported. We wanted to share a couple of those comments with you:

As an archaeologist, historian, preservationist, and history buff, I feel passionately about studying, stewarding, and educating people about our fragile historic resources. Our heritage is a vital part of who we are, it helps define us as people and as a nation, and it can help guide us into the future. To squander the past is like cutting our legs out from under us. – Thane, Virginia

As a former public outreach coordinator for an archaeological research facility for several years, it was my job to engage a wide range of people from age 7 to age 100 in the fascinating history of our nation. Archaeology provides tangible, physical evidence of how people, from the President to the share cropper, lived their lives, and encompasses all ethnicities and income groups. Please continue to fund this important way to make history relevant to our citizens. Thank you. – Regina, California

As an archaeologist that works closely with descendants, heritage organizations, and the general public and as an educator at a public university, I’ve seen firsthand that archaeology can have a significant impact on diverse communities, including improving “American’s quality of life” through civic engagement and community projects. We MUST continue to support the humanities through public funding!! These projects ENRICH our communities and serve as touchstones of communal memory – They give current generations a sense of historical perspective and rootedness. They remind us all of how our nation came to be and what is unique about our local communities!!! – Jason, Utah

I am an archaeologist and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. I have recently submitted a proposal to NSF to fund my research on the resilience of communities after the collapse of a political institution. This research directly relates to my experience in Afghanistan and can be very relevant to modern situations. – Ronald, Illinois

Thanks to all of your for continued support!