Editor’s Note: The House of Representatives passed H.R. 7608—a package of four appropriations bills including the FY21 Interior Appropriations bill—by a vote of 224 to 189 on Friday, July 24, 2020.
This week, the House is considering legislation that would provide a new record high of $136.425 million for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), a nearly $18 million (15%) increase from last year’s already record funding. The “minibus” package of appropriations bills that includes the FY21 Interior Appropriations bill will be on the House Floor beginning on Thursday. We rounded up some highlights from the House bill below, and you can find the full text of the legislation and accompanying report on the House Appropriations Committee website.
Using the Historic Preservation Fund to Tell the Full American Story
Within the more than $136 million in HPF funding, the House bill expands several competitive grant programs that help preserve places that tell diverse stories and recognize our full history. The African American Civil Rights Grant Program, which preserves sites and stories related to the African American struggle to gain equal rights as citizens in the 20th century, receives $18 million in the House bill, an increase of $2.5 million. The small but highly successful Underrepresented Community Grant Program, which recently provided survey and nomination grants for 18 projects, sees a boost to $1 million, up from $750,000. And a newly established program to preserve and highlight the sites and stories associated with securing civil rights for All Americans, including women, American Latino, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and LGBTQ Americans would receive $4.25 million in the House bill, up $1.75 million from FY20.
Additionally, the House bill allocates the following HPF funding:
- $55.675 million for State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), an increase of $3 million;
- $15 million for Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), an increase of $1.265 million;
- $25 million for Save America’s Treasures, and increase of $9 million;
- $7.5 million for Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization, level funding;
- $10 million for preservation grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), full funding.
Investing in Historic and Cultural Resources in our Parks and on Public Lands
For key accounts that address deferred maintenance in our national parks, the House bill increases funding for Cyclic Maintenance by $34.609 million (a 22% increase) while providing level funding for Repair and Rehabilitation. Funding for Line-Item Construction in the bill matches the Administration’s budget request of a little over $131 million. In report language accompanying the bill, the House Appropriations Committee also urges NPS to prioritize funding for the backlog of maintenance and preservation projects at park units that are designated as World Heritage Sites.
Notably, if the Great American Outdoors Act is enacted as expected, it will set aside up to $1.3 billion in mandatory funding (in addition to amounts appropriated) for the deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service annually for five years beginning in FY21. The Great American Outdoors Act will also fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million in FY21 and subsequent years while maintaining a congressional role in how that money will be allocated. Within LWCF, the House bill directs a record high of $18 million to the American Battlefield Acquisition grants.
For public lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the House bill increases funding for cultural resources management by $1.7 million to $20.3 million and the National Conservation Lands by $5.2 million to $49.3 million. These increases are consistent with requests included in a letter led by the National Trust, the Conservation Lands Foundation, the Coalition for American Heritage, and the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (NATHPO) and signed by 84 additional organizations.
In an important provision for the Greater Chaco landscape, the House bill prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from using funds from the bill to nominate or accept a nomination or expression of interest for oil and gas leasing within a withdrawal area that corresponds to a roughly 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Increased Funding for the Arts and Humanities
The House bill provides $170 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which is an increase of $7.75 million (4.7%) for each agency. Congress has consistently rejected proposals by the Administration to shutter the NEA and NEH, and it has also demonstrated support by providing $75 million to each entity through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act earlier this year. The National Trust joined our partners in advocating for additional increases in a letter making the case that these investments help sustain the arts and culture sectors and weather the current crises so that they may continue their valuable contributions to communities nationwide.
Policy Provisions Related to Confederate Symbols
The House bill includes three policy provisions related to symbols of the Confederacy. Specifically, it includes a provision that prohibits funds for the purchase or display of a Confederate flag with the exception of specific circumstances where the flags provide historical context; a provision to require the National Park Service to remove physical Confederate commemoratives works from public display; and a provision to require an inventory of all assets under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior with Confederate names.
Click here to read the National Trust’s recent statement on Confederate monuments.
The Path Forward
The Senate has postponed action on appropriations bills to a date yet to be determined, but we expect funding levels in the Senate to be lower than the House, meaning advocacy by the preservation community continues to be extremely important. It is unlikely that Congress will complete action on the full suite of appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30, and the most likely scenario appears to be passage of a continuing resolution that will push final action beyond the November election.
Keep an eye on this space for additional details and opportunities for action as the legislative process moves forward. And please sign up for our advocacy newsletter!
Janelle DiLuccia is the associate director of public lands policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.