The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Shaping National Preservation Policy

Planning and Consultation

The ACHP created and administers a public process for identifying and resolving conflicts between federally-assisted development and historic preservation interests.

While the ACHP has other important roles, it is best known for implementing the federal project review process known as Section 106. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act says that federal agencies are to “take into account” the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and afford the ACHP “a reasonable opportunity to comment with regard to such undertaking.” A 1966 Senate report noted that the law was intended to ensure that federal agencies would not work at cross-purposes with historic preservation goals, and would provide meaningful review of federal or federally-assisted projects impacting historic properties.

The ACHP outlined a process in government-wide procedures requiring a federal agency planning, funding, or licensing a project or program to:

  1. identify historic and cultural properties that might be affected by the proposed undertaking;
  2. determine that undertaking’s likely effects on such properties;
  3. consider alternatives to avoid or lessen any impacts; and
  4. consult with affected and interested parties to come up with a preservation-friendly solution if possible.

The Section 106 process that was laid out in detail, first in the original 1969 procedures and later in regulations (1979), has evolved considerably. However, essentially the ACHP (or a state historic preservation officer [SHPO] and/or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer [THPO]) is contacted by an agency planning to carry out a project or grant a permit, and provided with background information about the project, for review and “consultation.” At first these “cases” were direct requests for comment from the full ACHP membership. In its first year, the ACHP received submissions on a heating and cooling plant for Georgetown University and siting of a nuclear power plant on the Hudson River near Saratoga Battlefield National Historical Park.

While the ACHP’s involvement did not stop harmful projects, it exposed them to a certain amount of public scrutiny and forced officials and project proponents to document what they were proposing and consider the consequences. These cases raised the public visibility of historic resources listed on the National Register as well as government awareness of preservation values.

Originally Section 106 applied only to properties already listed on the National Register of Historic Places; following a 1971 executive order and 1976 amendments to the NHPA, properties “eligible for” the National Register were included to ensure consideration of all properties worthy of consideration, not just those already recorded.

Through its procedures and regulations, the ACHP also interpreted two parts of Section 106 at an early stage—the “take into account” standard and the ACHP’s reasonable opportunity to comment—to entail requiring consultation among the parties leading (preferably) to agreement on how to proceed. This provided an opportunity for public involvement in such decisions.

Beginning in 2012 as part of preparations to observe the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act in 2016, the ACHP has developed a series of brief case studies, “Section 106 Success Stories.” These case examples and other related information continue to be updated and developed regularly, and may be found through the links below and at the ACHP website. The result is that over the last five decades, thousands of significant historic and cultural properties have been protected, public views considered, and steps taken to consider project alternatives and to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects on those historic assets.

Want to explore this topic further? Check out these original documents and interviews with key players from the ACHP archive!

Interviews

Lynne Sebastian

Former ACHP member and former SHPO of New Mexico

The National Historic Preservation Act and 36 CFR part 800, the implementing regulation for Section 106 of the Act, as they stand, provide the philosophical and legal basis, the processual framework, and the inherent flexibility to guide a robust, yet flexible and balanced historic preservation program well into the next 50 years of the NHPA. The problems that give rise to negative perceptions of the Act and historic preservation in general are, with perhaps one exception, matters of implementation, not matters of law or regulation. Read more

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

401 F Street NW, Suite 308, Washington, DC 20001-2637, (202) 517-0200