Section 110 and the Spirit of Stewardship

By Special Contributor posted 07-29-2015 13:23

By Katry Harris, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

As we approach the 50-year mark of the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Preservation Leadership Forum has enlisted the help of preservation practitioners to take a close look at how the NHPA is used to protect historic places. Earlier this year we took a look at Section 106, and are now covering Section 110, a provision that requires federal agencies to establish a historic preservation program for the identification and protection of historic properties under their direct control or ownership. In this final post in the series, Katry Harris from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation looks at Section 110 and stewardship.
It shall be the policy of the federal government, in cooperation with other nations and in partnership with the States, local governments, Indian tribes, and private organizations and individuals to …(3) administer federally owned, administered, or controlled prehistoric and historic resources in a spirit of stewardship for the inspiration and benefit of present and future generations… (54 U.S.C. § 300101(3))

Since the addition, in 1980, of the Section 110 requirements to the National Historic Preservation Act, federal agencies have made significant progress in creating a culture of stewardship, reflecting the policy established in the Act, for historic properties under their control and those in non-federal ownership but affected by their undertakings. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) maintains a current list of Federal Preservation Officers providing contact information for 14 departments and some 65 agencies. These dedicated historic preservationists work tirelessly to improve their agency’s knowledge of historic properties, train key staff, and implement procedures for considering the effects of their undertakings in all their program areas on historic properties. Their efforts, when supported at the highest level of agency leadership by Senior Policy Officials, have been successful in improving preservation outcomes.

In addition to the maintenance of a Federal Preservation Officer and federal historic preservation program, Section 110 requires each federal agency to make survey efforts to identify and evaluate historic properties on federal lands and to use, to the maximum extent feasible, historic properties available to the agency prior to acquiring, constructing, or leasing another building for purposes of carrying out agency responsibilities. This requirement, along with the mandate to minimize harm to National Historic Landmarks, is often a key consideration in federal property master planning. Federal agencies work continuously to appropriately balance their current mission, energy efficiency and sustainability, climate change adaption and resiliency, and “Reduce the Footprint” goals, with the requirements to protect historic properties, especially National Historic Landmarks.

In the February 2015 report, In a Spirit of Stewardship: A Report on Federal Historic Property Management, the ACHP found that integrating historic property stewardship in federal agency strategic planning for consolidation and realignment of real property portfolios improves historic preservation outcomes. The ACHP’s report details challenges agencies face in the continued use or reuse of historic buildings, structures, and districts, but it also highlights successful approaches.

 Print shows Dr. King's residence, the President's villa, the military governor's house, and the soldier's home, established in 1851 and later known as the Armed Forces Retirement Home. "During the Civil War, President Lincoln and his family resided here from June to November of 1862, 1863, and 1864." | Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-3269
Print shows Dr. King's residence, the President's villa, the military governor's house, and the soldier's home, established in 1851 and later known as the Armed Forces Retirement Home. "During the Civil War, President Lincoln and his family resided here from June to November of 1862, 1863, and 1864." | Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-3269
The U.S. Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) set the bar high in its master planning for its Washington, D.C. campus, which is entirely within a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As the character of military action continues to evolve, future residents at AFRH will have different medical and accessibility requirements than past and current residents. Therefore, AFRH must modernize its facilities to address the changing needs and challenges of the future. AFRH must also provide its residents with facilities designed to reflect the latest standards and practices in senior housing and health care. As AFRH’s infrastructure continues to age, rising costs of maintenance and operation of historic buildings compete with the agency’s responsibility to provide services to residents. AFRH made a comprehensive effort to plan for preservation outcomes, including leasing buildings and spaces to individuals, government entities, schools, and non-profit organizations. One of the most successful examples is the Cooperative Agreement AFRH maintains with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, providing the opportunities for some 30,000 members of the public each year to visit the Lincoln Cottage and Visitor Center on the campus. These preservation planning efforts support the agency’s mission, and serve as a model for all property managing agencies responsible for the stewardship of “campus like” historic districts.

Similarly, the report provides examples of successful efforts to rehabilitate historic federal buildings to meet the highest standards of energy efficiency and sustainability, such as the General Services Administration’s (GSA) LEED platinum rehabilitations of the Hipolito F. Garcia and Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Buildings and U.S. Courthouses in Texas and Colorado, respectively. However, agencies would benefit from more examples of creative solutions developed for “green design” rehabilitation projects of federal historic buildings and structures. To assist with this effort, the ACHP plans to partner with the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, GSA, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and other parties to disseminate private sector energy efficiency and sustainability research and solutions for historic properties to federal agencies.

In the period covered by the report, 2011-2014, each federal agency prepared a Climate Change and Adaption Plan as required by Executive Order 13653, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.” These plans provide an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed changes to their land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make watersheds, natural resources and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them to be more resilient to climate change. However, in these plans, most agencies did not address the potential threats of climate change to historic properties in their ownership or actions agencies could take to prepare historic properties to be more resilient. One notable exception is the National Park Service (NPS). Among its efforts, NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis issued a Director’s Memorandum, “Climate Change and Stewardship of Cultural Resources” (2014), requiring all identified cultural resources to be evaluated in terms of their vulnerability and significance so that management decisions are directed to resources that are both significant and most at risk. The ACHP recommended in the report that all agencies follow the NPS example and review their existing Climate Change and Adaption Plans to identify threats to historic properties and incorporate strategies to prepare to protect those properties and maximize their resilience. 

 Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge, Arizona | Credit:  National Park Service
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge, Arizona | Credit: National Park Service
In some cases, agencies have unused historic properties for which no federal use is identified or which cannot be adapted for current needs. When a parcel cannot be transferred to a non-federal party, disposal is not an option. In such cases, some agencies have found that leases are effective tools to offset costs while ensuring the long-term preservation of historic properties. The rules governing some leases, however, may act as impediments to agency use of this option. The ACHP recommended in the report that the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with GSA, the ACHP, and other affected agencies, reexamine the application of such scoring rules as applied to historic buildings and pursue changes to facilitate the use of leases. In addition, the ACHP recommended that these same agencies collaborate to consider changes in the “Freeze the Footprint” (now, “Reduce the Footprint”) policy that would increase agency flexibility in using long-term, self-supporting leases to use, maintain, and protect historic properties.

The federal government will face unprecedented challenges in the stewardship of historic properties as it continues its efforts to reduce the size of its real property inventory and ensure the energy efficiency, sustainability, and climate change adaptability of its remaining portfolio. The continued productive use of federal historic properties is a solution for federal real property needs. The ACHP will continue to work with agencies to fulfill these goals and meet its mission to promote the preservation, enhancement, and sustainable use of the nation’s diverse historic resources, and advise the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. The preservation of this irreplaceable heritage is in the public interest so that the cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, and economic benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations of Americans.

Katry Harris is a program analyst at the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

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