Consistent with their missions and operations, agencies are directed to be caretakers of the portions of America’s cultural patrimony under their management or control. The NHPA was amended in 1980 and 1992) to have federal agencies take specific steps to integrate historic preservation into their policies and programs, including carrying out their own historic property identification, evaluation, and protection strategies and appointing agency preservation officers. The 1980 amendments also added a specific ACHP responsibility to review federal agency policies and programs and recommend “methods to improve the effectiveness, coordination, and consistency of those policies and programs with the policies and programs carried out under this Act.” For public land areas, facilities, or resource management programs carried out by federal agencies like military installation operations or range management, programmatic agreements negotiated through Section 106 have attempted to tailor historic and cultural resource management strategies to agency operational needs. The ACHP has also worked to promote federal agency stewardship through government-wide reviews and assessments and through specifically focused training, guidance, tailored procedures, program “audits,” and other actions.
Focused work with specific agencies efforts began with an interagency agreement with the Department of the Army in the late 1980s, which led to the development of Army historic preservation procedures and cultural resource management plans for installations. Interagency agreements were subsequently developed with other federal departments and bureaus. In 2000, the ACHP prepared a special report on federal cultural stewardship on public lands and other federally controlled property (amounting to nearly one-third of the country). Then in 2003, under a presidential executive order, the ACHP was given new programmatic responsibilities: evaluating the state of federal historic property stewardship and determining how those holdings are contributing to local economic needs. This began a series of triennial ACHP reports to the president on federal historic property management.
In 1980 and again in 1992, the NHPA was amended to help ensure that federal agencies would fully integrate historic preservation into their policies and programs. Commonly referred to as Section 110 (the original section number before the NHPA was re-codified in 2015), this section of the law requires that federal agencies establish their own historic preservation programs for the identification, evaluation, and protection of historic properties. The goal of Section 110 is to make federal agencies proactive stewards of America’s cultural resources The ACHP cooperated closely with the National Park Service and others on NPS’ development and issuance of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Federal Agency Historic Preservation Programs, otherwise known as the “Section 110 Guidelines” (1998).
In 1991, on the 25th anniversary of the NHPA, the ACHP dedicated much of its annual Report to the President and Congress to the topic of federal property management, hoping that it would serve as a stimulus for thoughtful discussion. Ten years later, the ACHP undertook a more in-depth study of the issue in the report, Caring for the Past, Managing for the Future: Federal Stewardship and America’s Historic Legacy (summary report and full report). Recommendations focused on enhancing the federal government’s leadership role, providing adequate funding, and improving federal accountability for historic resource stewardship.
In 2003, Executive Order 13287, “Preserve America,” tasked the ACHP with new responsibilities to promote federal stewardship and to evaluate the state of the federal government’s historic properties and their contribution to local economic development. In response, the ACHP published Becoming Better Stewards of Our Past: Recommendations for Enhancing Federal Management of Historic Properties in 2004. That was followed in 2006 by the first in an ongoing series of triennial ACHP reports to the President and Congress on federal historic property management. Commonly known as Section 3 reports (for the section in the Executive Order that mandates their development), the reports are based on progress reports submitted by federal agencies that highlight the current issues, challenges, and opportunities that face federal agencies and the historic and cultural resources under their care.
Over the years, the ACHP also has worked to explore federal stewardship issues specific to particular agencies and types of historic properties. In 1991, at the request of Congress, the ACHP developed the report, Balancing Historic Preservation Needs with the Operation of Highly Technical or Scientific Facilities. The report grappled with thorny issues faced by agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense (DoD), and others in managing historic properties associated with the development of space travel and other high-tech initiatives. Addressing a very different type of historic resource, the ACHP issued Preserving Historic Post Offices: A Report to Congress in 2014, which examined the stewardship issues raised by closure and disposal of postal facilities.
In 1994, the ACHP partnered with the Department of Defense on an in-depth study entitled, Defense Department Compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. Coordination on this report ultimately led to DoD funding a liaison position at the ACHP to work solely on DoD-related consultation and coordination. This was the first in an ongoing series of positions at the ACHP funded by federal agencies to supplement limited ACHP resources and ensure focused attention on the unique federal stewardship challenges of those agencies.