A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century

By Robert E. Stipe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Federal Preservation Program
JOHN M. FOWLERThe federal role in the national historic preservation program owes its form to the creators of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966. Building on a well-established but narrow federal effort up to that time, the authors of With Heritage So Rich proposed a federal leadership role embodied in a series of innovative measures that formed the essential framework of today's program. Indeed, one might argue that little new has been added to that original vision and that progress since then has largely consisted of fleshing out the details of that vision and adapting it to the evolving circumstances of American society.1 The 1965 report called for a federal preservation effort that encompassed:
an expansive inventory of properties reflecting the full range of the national heritage,
a mechanism to protect those properties from unnecessary harm caused by federal activities,
a program of financial incentives, embracing both grants and tax incentives, to encourage the preservation of nonfederally owned historic properties, and
an independent federal preservation body to coordinate the actions of federal agencies affecting historic preservation.

The resulting NHPA was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 15, 1966.2 The federal program that has since evolved adheres closely to the founding principles and organizational framework embodied in NHPA.

The underlying theme of American preservation is that of an effective partnership among federal, tribal, state, and local governments and the private sector. The current blend of governmental activity evolved from the initial leadership role assumed by the federal government early in the twentieth century. However, this partnership has always recognized that most preservation happens outside the federal government and, for the most part, in the private sec

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