First Annual National Park Service Historic Preservation Conference
NPS Logo

Larry Norby

The National Park Service has established and maintains a policy of strong commitment towards cultural resource preservation. Indications of this commitment are growing constantly, and the intensity of the Park Service's position is shown in the following sequentially arranged quotations.

1. February 21, 1974, from Park Service Director Walker (to the Directorate):

"Management at all levels should seek and give appropriate weight to professional advice in all decisions affecting cultural resources."

"Inadequate funding is common to all our programs, not just historic preservation. Too frequently, however, within available funding, the treatment of fragile and deteriorating original fabric commands lower priority than less pressing needs, such as reconstruction of vanished historic structures, creation of 'typical' buildings reflective of past ways of life, or even the upkeep of roads, trails, and other renewable facilities."

". . . the first responsibility of the Service is to preserve."

2. February 28, 1974, from Department of Interior Secretary Morton (to GSA Administrator Sampson):

"I am prompted to say that in this case it seems highly important that the procedures established under law by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, of which we are both members ex officio, should be scrupulously followed."

3. February 28, 1975, from National Park Service Director Everhardt (to Regional Directors, Director, National Capital Parks):

"First, failure to follow the procedures of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is a violation of law for which the undertaking agency may be sued in court, as was GSA in the case described. Second, Secretary Morton, Assistant Secretary Reed, and Deputy Assistant Secretaries Bohlen and Wheeler are fully committed to a posture of strict compliance by all Federal agencies, including Interior. "

"I shall expect the scrupulous adherence of the National Park Service, as the lead Federal Agency in historic preservation, to the Advisory Council Procedures. Adherence must be in spirit as well as form. We must obey the law . . . ."

4. March 10, 1975, from Regional Director Rumberg (to Southwest Region Superintendents, Chief, Chaco Center, and Division Chiefs, Southwest Regional Office):

"It is our in-house professional example that provides the Secretary operational leverage with all other Federal agencies in carrying out his responsibilities under the 1966 Act and EO 11593. For this reason the Director will accept no less than a sterling example from us to present to the Secretary."

5. March 18, 1975, Associate Director Connally, Professional Services (WASO and Field Directorate):

". . . it is expected to be a precedent-setting case strongly emphasizing the obligation of Federal agencies to adhere to established review procedures of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation."

". . . all Federal agencies must scrupulously adhere to review procedures established under Section 106, otherwise the protective intent of the National Historic Preservation Act is meaningless."

"Inevitably the National Park Service will be expected to conduct its affairs in exemplary form."

Throughout the foregoing set of quotations, the emphasis is on compliance with procedures established by the Advisory Council Historic Preservation. Under Section 800.9, Criteria of adverse effect, it is stated that,

"Generally, adverse effects occur under conditions which include but are not limited to:

(e) Neglect of a property resulting in its deterioration or destruction."

Since National Parks and Monuments are included as National Register properties, and include cultural resources contained therein, the neglect of archeological sites which result in their deterioration or destruction demonstrates that the National Park Service is in violation of the law. Obviously, a dichotomy exists between the "exemplary form," "sterling example," and "scrupulous adherence" required by offices at and above the regional level, and the allocations and priorities by area superintendents. In fact, critical omissions occur even in the levels of upper management. The January 2, 1975, Memorandum to the Directorate from Associate Director Norwood defines "Cyclic Dollars" as:

"Funding controlled by the Region and to be allocated on a project basis to cover non-recurring costs in park operations, and any elements of park operations performed on a cyclic basis (i.e., less often than annually, such as painting of buildings, road re-seal, special events, boundary surveys, etc., and acquisition of certain items of equipment that are not acquired on an annual basis)."

These kinds of omissions, as insignifcant as they appear to some, perpetuate a psychological feeling of apathy towards cultural resources on the level below that of the region, i.e., the individual Park areas. As a result, when requests for funds are received, they are more likely to refer to painting buildings, road reseal, special events, and boundary surveys than to unnamed priorities such as ruins maintenance which have been explicitly referred to above as "the first responsibility of the Service."

In summary, therefore, the National Park Service, as trustee of the public heritage, requires all agencies, including themselves, to consider adverse effects when any damage or potential destruction of cultural resources may occur from developmental projects. This position carries a full battery of legislative mandates, including the Procedures for Compliance established by the Advisory Council. From the legal standpoint, equally denigrated by the Council is neglect, and it is neglect which constitutes a prime source of illegality in the National Park Service. An increase in awareness of the importance of now dilapidated cultural resources is of major import if the Park Service is to ascribe to a position of total and legitimate resource management.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 14-Jul-2009