On-line Book

The National Historic Preservation Act and The National Park Service: A History





Getting (Re)Organized

Expanding the Register

Aiding Preservation

Protecting Properties

current topic An Appraisal

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F


The National Historic Preservation Act and The National Park Service: A History
An Appraisal
NPS logo


A law like the National Historic Preservation Act is only as good as its execution. It needs the bureaucracy to put it into effect and the additional congressional commitment of appropriations to achieve its purposes. Adequate appropriations and effective implementation are unlikely to occur without the continuing involvement of the constituency behind the law and forceful administrative leadership.

Execution of the 1966 act and its amendments has not been without difficulty and occasional default. The authorities and directives in the law suggested a larger commitment than Congress and successive administrations have been willing to meet. As has been seen and as the funding history table in the appendix graphically summarizes, grants-in-aid appropriations in most years have been small fractions of the amounts authorized. Perceptions of inadequate National Park Service and Interior Department support for the preservation program and recent administration efforts to end grants altogether have fueled complaints and calls for relocation of the program. On occasion, Federal agencies have violated Section 106 with impunity. The 1980 amendments commanded the Secretary of the Interior, with great specificity, to establish and maintain a program of insured loans for preserving National Register properties; but Congress appropriated no money for this program and it has never been implemented.

Many other trials and shortcomings relative to execution of the act could be cited. To conclude with such a litany, however, would grossly misrepresent the "big picture" of what the act has wrought. That picture is aptly summarized in the preface of The Secretary of the Interior's 20th Anniversary Report on the National Historic Preservation Act:

[M]uch of what was sought through enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act has been accomplished. These accomplishments are objective and concrete; even the casual observer is aware of the upgrading and rehabilitation of historic properties and the broadening of citizen interest in historic preservation that has taken place throughout the United States. With few exceptions, Federal agencies now thoughtfully consider cultural resource values. Guidelines, standards, and technical materials defining good preservation practice are generally available. As a people, the quality of our lives has benefitted from historic preservation through appreciation of our history, through the beautification of our cities and rural landscapes, and through the creation of jobs and the economic revitalization of chronically impoverished areas. The verdict is in; historic preservation is a winning proposition. [1]

Only those who fail to place preservation in historical perspective and appreciate how far it has come in the last 20 years would disagree.

online book Top

Last Modified: Thurs, Sep 20 2007 10:00 pm PDT

National Park Service's ParkNet Home