Legal and Philosophic Framework
The NPS legal role in historic preservation has its origins in the National Park Service Organic Act
of 1916 (16 U.S.C.1.), which created the agency and defined its mission
"...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the
scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the
enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the
enjoyment of future generations."
In 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act (Public Law 89-665; 16 U.S.C. 470) set a vision for a nationwide program of historic preservation among federal, tribal and state governments, local municipalities and private and non-profit organizations, as:
“The spirit and direction of the Nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage; the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as
a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people… the preservation of this irreplaceable heritage is in the public interest so that its vital legacy of cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, economic, and energy benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations of Americans.”
With the passage of the NHPA, the NPS became the lead federal historic preservation agency
through responsibilities delegated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Since 1966, the NPS has
had a dual role in historic preservation, both to preserve the resources of the national parks
unimpaired in fulfillment of the Organic Act and to provide leadership in the preservation of the
nation’s cultural heritage, as envisioned by the NHPA.
Below, you’ll find the policy and guidelines adopted by the NPS to implement federal