First Annual National Park Service Historic Preservation Conference
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Bob Utley

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 entrusted the conduct of a greatly expanded national historic preservation program to the Secretary of the Interior. As a matter of administrative convenience as well as political desirability the Secretary in turn called upon the States to assume most of the responsibility for carrying out the program. Thus it falls to State Historic Preservation Officers appointed by the Governors to conduct surveys, prepare plans, nominate properties to the National Register, and manage the matching grants-in-aid.

But in every State there are Federal properties of National Register quality. All States contain Defense installations and public buildings, for example, that should be registered and preserved. Many States, especially in the west, contain great tracts of public domain including national forest, parks, wildlife refuges, and lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Often the State Historic Preservation Officers failed to pursue their responsibilities aggressively in these enclaves, either because of preoccupation with the clearly State concerns, or reluctance to trespass on Federal sensibilities, or a lack of cooperation or worse on the part of Federal administrators. At the same time Federal agencies, regarding historic preservation as no part of their mission, ignored if they even knew about the national policy proclaimed in the National Historic Preservation Act.

These conditions gave rise to Executive Order 11593, "Protection and Enhancement of the Cultural Environment." The document originated in the Council on Environmental Quality and was developed in consultation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Park Service. It was signed by President Nixon on May 13, 1971.

The purpose of the Executive Order was clearly to put every Federal agency in the historic preservation business - to require every agency to conduct its programs in such way as to further the national policy established in the act. Section 2 of the Executive Order specifies the responsibilities of all Federal land-managing agencies. Section 3 specifies the professional advice and assistance that all agencies may obtain from the Secretary of the Interior.

The National Park Service has two sets of responsibilities under the Executive Order. First, as custodian of the National Park System, the Service must comply, like all other land-managing agencies, with Section 2. Second, as the professional component of the Department of the Interior in historic preservation, the Service provides, on behalf of the Secretary, all the services enumerated in Section 3.

Section 3 responsibilities are the province of the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, in which all the external programs of the National Park Service in historic preservation have now been concentrated.

Just as every State has a State Historic Preservation Officer, so every federal agency has a Federal Representative to handle the agency's responsibilities under Section 2 of the Executive Order. For the Department of the Interior, that official is Deputy Assistant Secretary Doug Wheeler. For the National Park Service, I, as the Washington Office official concerned with historic preservation in the parks, am the Federal Representative.

Just as every Federal Representative deals on behalf of his agency with the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, so I, on behalf of the National Park Service as a land-managing agency, deal with the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation. Usually it is through the Departmental Representative, the same as any other Interior bureau. This may seem excessively bureaucratic, but it is necessary that we not appear to receive any better treatment than other agencies.

I want to discuss briefly each of our Section 2 responsibilities.

The first, of course, is to nominate to the National Register all properties under our protection that meet National Register criteria.

All parks in the historical area category are already automatically included in the National Register. However, they are not now covered by National Register forms and these forms will ultimately have to be executed. Meantime, for purposes of Section 106, we can assume that the exterior boundaries of historical areas that are all or almost all Class VI lands are registered; and that in larger areas such as Mesa Verde and Cumberland Gap the Class VI land only is registered.

More pressing is the obligation to identify and nominate qualified properties in the natural and recreational areas, for these are not now protected and indeed often not even identified. It is important that we proceed rapidly in these areas, not only in order to comply with the law but also in order that our own internal management system may function as intended. The National Register definition and the master plan definition of Class VI land must coincide. Our management policies for historic resources apply to all Class VI land. (In the new policies we are calling Class VI land "historic zones.")

Nominations are the responsibility of the Regional Director. But since the National Register criteria are the sole basis for nomination, and as professional evaluation is the bedrock of the National Register requirement upon the States, the regional professional support staffs must be involved. Also, the signature of the SHPO is required on the nomination. It is essential that we understand that considerations of expediency or other factors unrelated to National Register criteria must play no role in the decision what to nominate to the Register.

Nominations are sent to my office where my staff reviews them and decides which should be nominated and which should be returned for correction or revision. This is a change from previous procedures in which nominations went directly to the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation. As I have pointed out, we are now functioning in relation to OAHP just like any other land-managing agency. Regions do not formally communicate directly with OAHP. Nominations that my office regards as sound are sent to the Departmental Federal Representative for transmittal to the National Register in the same way as nominations from other Interior bureaus.

We are having to return too many nominations. Now that there are professional support people in the regions, we should be getting better quality nominations. The problem is ordinarily not evaluation but verbalization. Significance is not well expressed in terms of the criteria and the various areas or periods of significance checked on the form. A chronology of names and facts does not establish significance, still less explain significance. The States are sending in acceptable nominations for the most part. We should be able to do as well.

The second Section 2 responsibility is to exercise caution pending completion of the survey and nomination process. This paragraph in effect extends Section 106 protection to properties that are qualified for the National Register but have not been nominated. It sets up a mechanism for establishing National Register significance without going through the nomination process. This is the eligibility determination the Secretary of the Interior will provide upon request. Thus, when a property in a park about which there is any question of National Register eligibility is about to be impacted by an NPS undertaking, a determination of eligibility must be sought. Prepare a National Register form and send it to me as Bureau Federal Representative. I will ask the determination from OAHP through the Departmental Federal Representative. If the property is determined to be eligible, it is then subject to Section 106.

The third responsibility is to record in HABS or HAER National Register structures that must be demolished or altered.

Fourth is preservation of registered or eligible properties according to standards prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior. Although we have our own internal management documents - the policies and activities standards - the Secretary of the Interior is about to promulgate standards for the guidance of all agencies. These standards are now in the regions for your review. Shortly we will meet with other Interior bureaus to comment on this document. If you have comments, please let us have them. These standards contain nothing I am aware of that is inconsistent with our existing policies and standards but they may well set up some additional requirements.

Finally, there is a requirement to submit to the Secretary of the Interior and the Advisory Council procedures for insuring preservation programs consistent with national policy. I do not know of any agency that has done this. In the absence of such submissions, the Advisory Council itself drew up its body of procedures which you know as 36 CFR Part 800. In effect, all agencies are bound by these procedures until they can devise their own. It is unlikely that any agency, including the National Park Service, will attempt to write different procedures. Thus the Council's procedures become those that govern the actions of all agencies, including our own.

All of us here are concerned almost wholly with the inhouse programs and responsibilities of the NPS - those relating to our activities as a land-managing agency. The Section 2 responsibilities that I have discussed are those we must meet and master. As I have indicated, Section 3 responsibilities are assigned to OAHP. Those we are mainly interested in besides maintenance and expansion of the National Register are twofold. First, OAHP is to develop and make available to Federal agencies and State and local governments information concerning professional methods and techniques for preserving, improving, restoring, and maintaining historic properties. The principal goal of this activity now is to publish an encylopedic manual setting forth technical methods of preserving historic properties. Second is to advise Federal agencies in the evaluation, identification, preservation, improvement, restoration, and maintenance of historic properties. This involves direct advice and assistance in particular cases, but the emphasis now is on publishing the standards I discussed a few moments ago.

During the discussion after the end of the talk, Mr. Utley made several observations concerning the National Register. There is an inclination to mark the order of significance higher than the structure or site merits. Under no circumstances will any consideration other than National Register criteria will be used to determine the significance of a site or structure. Expediency or a feeling that a park is locked in on a course is unacceptable.

There are some areas with a great number of statues and monuments. Listing of all these structures in the LCS is not of great priority, but we need to get those structures that need preservation work on the Register first. The National Park Service has a tradition of mishandling monuments through improper treatment. We must keep in mind that they are historic structures and need proper treatment for preservation.

In absence of adequate data, an archeological site qualifies for nomination. Archeological sites are listed on the Register because of their value in illustrating a prehistory period and because of the knowledge they can yield. Once a site is excavated, it loses its value and needs no longer to be on the Register. We should inventory sites of all kinds before we select development sites. Bill Brown observed that the only way we can preserve or identify sites is by districts until such time as money can be provided to do adequate and extensive surveys.

We must sensitize managers and planners to historical resources. If we had done this long ago, historic preservation might not be a problem now. It is sad that we of the Service have to use an outside law on ourselves to make us meet our responsibilities. A great part of the problem stems from doing planning with inadequate data. This is one of the reasons we are so often in violation of NEPA. We proceed with planning without having an interdisciplinary data base on which the plan should be based.

Mr. Thompson observed that for the last three years we have given Historic Preservation a very high priority, but have had a low level of success in getting funds. Another problem is that much of the planning is done in DSC and the Regional Directors have little influence in setting priorities. WASO sets priorities on what they see as needs.

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Last Updated: 14-Jul-2009