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The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)

This Act Ensures Your Next Project Preserves Important Cultural and Historic Resources

What is the National Historic Preservation Act?

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) is our country’s policy for the protection of important historic buildings and archeological sites. The NHPA establishes the following:

  1. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: A non-regulatory council that advises on historic preservation issues and develops guidance and policies for federal implementation of the Act.

  2. State Historic Preservation Offices: A state agency that maintains a historic site inventory, nominates new NRHP sites, and participates in Section 106 review.

  3. National Register of Historic Places: The nation's official list of historic sites, buildings, districts, structures, and objects that qualify for national preservation.

  4. The Section 106 review process: Requires federal agencies to evaluate the impacts of actions they authorize, fund, or carry out to historic properties and cultural resources

Learn More about the National Historic Preservation Act here >>

A Brief History of the NHPA

Prior to the 1960’s, awareness around historic preservation in the U.S. was largely nonexistent except for a couple of efforts that paved the way for comprehensive preservation in the future. Those early preservation efforts included the following:

  • Antiquities Act of 1906: President Teddy Roosevelt signed this Act, which established national monuments

  • Historic Sites Act of 1935: Established national policies for historic site inventories and organized national parks under the National Parks Service

  • National Trust for Historic Preservation: A trust established by Congress to acquire and preserve historic sites and objects

Then things changes with the implementation of the Interstate Highway System and the Urban Renewal Program in the 1950s and 1960s, which led to widespread destruction of many historic properties and districts. This destruction increased public awareness around the cultural effects of urban renewal.  In response, the NHPA was passed by President Johnson in 1966. 

What is the Section 106 Review Process?

Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to evaluate the impacts of actions they authorize, fund, or carry out to historic properties and cultural resources. Federal agencies evaluate their impacts by requiring their project proponents to undergo Section 106 Review with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure that there are no impacts to sites that are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The important distinction in Section 106 is that it requires evaluation of impacts to cultural resources ONLY when and where the project involves a federal permit, federal lands, or federal funds.

So, for example, if a project is impacting wetlands within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction (federal trigger: Clean Water Act Section 404), cultural resources must be evaluated at the discrete wetland location (which is the extent of USACE jurisdiction) but not in the non-regulated private uplands. In this same example, if a project was to avoid all impacts to wetlands (and other waters of the U.S.) and thereby avoiding USACE permitting altogether, then the project would NOT require Section 106 review since there is no federal trigger. Or, as another example: if a project is federally-funded (federal trigger: funding) up to 100 percent of the project may have to be assessed for cultural resources because the entire project is within a federal action.

Learn more about Section 106 Review here >>

How Do I Know if Section 106 Applies to My Project?

Easy. Will your project involve federal funding, permitting, or land? If so, Section 106 applies and you will need to go through Section 106 review for your project with the State Historic Preservation Office (or, if you are on tribal land, the Tribal Historic Preservation Office).

Want to find out if Section 106 or state regulations apply to your project, or find next steps to walk through the Section 106 process?  Transect Reports can help.

Learn more about Transect Reports here >>

NHPA-Section 106-Compliance Report PDF

Learn about Section 106 Review Requirements for Your Project in 90 Seconds

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In 90 seconds or less, Transect provides you with an assessment of federal and state triggers and next steps around Section 106 review and SHPO consultation.

Want even more? Request a site-specific desktop search for confidential SHPO NRHP site records on your project, provided by one of Transect's qualified Cultural Resources Management partners. 

See For Yourself. Your First Report is Free. No Credit Card Required.

How to Find Historic Sites Near You

Whether you’re laying new utility lines, planning out commercial real estate, or building a new solar farm, identifying cultural and historic resources is an important factor in site selection. 

Here are some ways you can identify cultural and historic resources near you: 

  1. Use the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) list here: The National Park Services maintains a publicly-available list of national historic landmarks by state which you can access here

  2. Use Transect to explore a map of the National Register of Historic Places: Generate an in-depth evaluation of NRHP sites with just a few clicks. Or, explore potential new sites with Transect Vision to quickly find and map NRHP sites near you. Learn more here. 

  3. Use the Interactive Map on Wikipedia: Wikipedia allows you to view the National Register of Historic Places by state here.  

  4. Use the searchable table on the National Register of Historic Places: Download an up-to-date spreadsheet of listings by county. View the table on their website here.

  5. Request a site-specific desktop search for confidential SHPO site records on your project, provided by one of Transect's qualified Cultural Resources Management partners. 

Get more information about Cultural Resources mapping here >>

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