Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974

The Archeological and Historic Preservation Act (AHPA), also known as the Moss-Bennett bill, amended and expanded the Reservoir Salvage Act of 1960. The impetus for the bill was the destruction, funded or otherwise supported by federal agencies, of archeological sites throughout the country that were not covered by the original Reservoir Salvage Act legislation, which required archeological salvage as part of dam building projects.

AHPA makes clear that all Federal agencies are authorized to fund archeological investigations, reports, and other kinds of activities to mitigate the impacts of their projects on important archeological sites. The AHPA greatly expands the number and range of Federal agencies that had to take archeological resources into account when executing, funding, or licensing projects. It makes federal agencies responsible for mitigating the damage caused by their actions to important archeological sites. AHPA also expands federal policy by focusing attention on National Register-significant resources, but does not require that they be listed on the National Register.

Section 3 enables the Secretary of the Interior to assist other Federal agencies, private organizations, or individuals in meeting the historical and archeological preservation requirements under AHPA if the project is expected to result in the loss or destruction of significant scientific, historical, or archeological data.

Section 4 authorizes the Secretary, if notified that significant historical or archeological data may be irrevocably lost or destroyed, to undertake necessary studies independent of, although with some consultation with, the Federal agency responsible for undertaking, funding, or licensing the project. The Secretary delegates these tasks to the Departmental Consulting Archeologist, who carries them out through "unanticipated discovery procedures" initiated by federal agency staff or others when archeological resources are unexpectedly found during a Federal undertaking after the completion of Section 106 of NHPA. The procedures aim to avoid unnecessary damage to archeological resources by modifying a project design or by recovering threatened resources.

Section 5 assigns the Secretary coordination of historical or archeological activities, including consultation about the ownership and appropriate repositories for artifacts and other remains recovered by investigations conducted under the statute. It is a statutory authority for the governmentwide regulations for the curation and care of Federal archeological collections and associated records, 36 CFR 79. Section 5 calls for the Secretary to compile a report for Congress on archeological survey and recovery activities authorized under this statute. The Departmental Consulting Archeologist, National Park Service carries out this reporting requirement for the Secretary.

Section 7 authorizes Federal agencies responsible for projects to transfer to the Secretary of the Interior funds to assist them in meeting their responsibilities, up to 1% of the total amount authorized for the project.

Statute text:

Suggested reading:
McGimsey, C. R. "'This, Too, Will Pass': Moss-Bennett in Perspective." American Antiquity 50(2):326-331. 1985.

McManamon, "Archeological and Historic Preservation Act (AHPA)," In Archaeological Method and Theory: An Encyclopedia, edited by Linda Ellis, Garland Publishing Co., New York and London. 2000.

Last updated: February 25, 2021