President’s FY21 Budget Requests Alarming but Familiar Cuts for Historic Preservation

By Janelle DiLuccia posted 02-13-2020 15:20


Following enactment of the most preservation-friendly funding bill in history, the Trump Administration released its FY 2021 budget proposal this week with alarming but familiar calls for steep cuts to the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) and other key preservation programs, as well as proposing closure of the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.

View of the White House. | Credit: Proimos via Flickr CC-by-NC 2.0

Though these requested cuts are unlikely to be enacted, Congress needs to hear from the preservation community about why these programs matter. To help with that, Preservation Leadership Forum is hosting a webinar on congressional appropriations on Thursday, February 27 from 3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. Register today! And please keep an eye out for our report, the Preservation Budget: Select Preservation Priorities for FY 2021 Appropriations, later this month.

Cut of Two-Thirds Proposed for the Historic Preservation Fund

Congress provided a record high of $118.6 million for the HPF in FY 2020. By contrast, the Administration’s budget requests just $40.6 million, which would be a decrease of nearly two-thirds. Of that funding, $26.9 million would go to states (a 49% reduction from FY 2020) and $5.7 million would go to tribes (a 58% reduction). Additionally, the budget proposes $8 million for preservation grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (a 20% reduction).

The Administration proposes eliminating funding for the following HPF grant programs:

  • African American Civil Rights Grants
  • Civil Rights Grants for All Americans
  • Underrepresented Communities Grants
  • Save America’s Treasures (SAT)
  • Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants
The preservation community will be seeking a total of $150 million for the HPF this year. The specific allocations for the HPF, as well as other preservation priorities, were highlighted in the National Trust’s February 6 testimony before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

Few Bright Spots and Big Cuts for Public Lands

Addressing deferred maintenance in our national parks continues to be a priority for the Administration, with the budget recommending a 22% increase for cyclic maintenance—one of several key accounts. The Administration’s budget also calls for legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would provide $6.5 billion over five years to address deferred maintenance on infrastructure in national parks, other public lands, and at Bureau of Indian Education schools. This fund is similar to the approach to deferred maintenance in the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225) and Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500) supported by the National Trust.

Unfortunately, the budget also calls for a $14.8 million cut—an 11% decrease—for Repair and Rehabilitation within the National Park Service. It also requests a cut of more than $151 million for line-item construction, which would be a 53% decrease.

For the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Administration’s budget proposes a cut of $3.3 million for cultural resources management, which is a nearly 18% decrease from FY 2020. It is unclear how this proposal would impact the BLM’s ongoing work with western SHPOs to standardize and integrate cultural resources data on BLM lands through the National Cultural Resources Information Management System (NCRIMS), which received specific funding of $1.5 million in FY 2020.

For the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the Administration’s budget request effectively recommends a 97% decrease from the FY 2020 appropriation of $495 million. The National Trust continues to encourage appropriators to increase LWCF toward the full $900 million from offshore mineral leasing and other revenues that is dedicated to LWCF annually.

Cuts Proposed for Cultural Programs at the National Park Service

Cultural programs within the National Park Service support management of the National Register, review and approval of historic tax credit projects and other programs. The Administration proposes to cut this account by roughly one-third, from $31 million in FY 2020 to just over $20 million. Additionally, the budget again proposes shifting a border protection program into the Office of International Affairs while reducing overall program funding by more than half, which could threaten engagement in the World Heritage Program.

A bright spot in the budget is the recommendation to continue funding for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, African American Civil Rights Network, Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, and World War II Heritage Cities Network.

Arts and Humanities Agencies, Heritage Areas Again Proposed for Elimination

The Administration’s budget again proposes closing the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, recommending just enough funds to begin winding down each agency. Congress has rejected this proposal in prior years, and in fact provided $162 million for each agency in FY 2020. Similarly, the budget proposes to end federal funding for the 55 congressionally authorized National Heritage Areas, which received a total of about $22 million in FY 2020.

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

The Administration’s budget recommends $7.4 million for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a slight uptick from FY 2020.

Make Your Voice Heard

The National Trust will continue to provide resources to help the preservation community advocate on a federal level, including our February 27 Forum webinar and Preservation Budget report. Please consider signing up for our government relations newsletter to get updates about ongoing developments and opportunities to advocate for robust funding for preservation.

The National Trust will work with Congress to ensure that key preservation programs receive the necessary funding to fulfill their missions. The nation’s preservation programs are essential to maintaining our historic communities as engines of economic revitalization and continuing to identify and protect the places that tell the stories of all Americans.

Want to stay up to date on advocacy issues for historic preservation? Sign up for our advocacy newsletter! 

Janelle DiLuccia is the associate director of public lands policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Tom Cassidy is the vice president for government relations and policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


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