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The National Historic Preservation Act

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This act ensures your next project preserves important cultural and historic resources.

What is a Cultural Resource? 

Cultural resources are the physical remnants of our past that tell us when people lived, where they traveled, how they ate, whom they interacted with, and why they formed relationships. Cultural resources can include many features such as buildings, structures, districts, sites, or objects.

What is the National Historic Preservation Act? 

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) is the United States’ policy for protecting natural resources of historical significance, such as historic structures, cultural resources, historic places, and archeological sites. The NHPA establishes the following:

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation 

This council is a non-regulatory body that advises on historic preservation issues and develops guidance and policies for federal implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act.

State Historic Preservation Offices

Federal Regulations, such as the preservation law, must be upheld by state and local governments. The state agency maintains a historical site inventory, nominates new NRHP sites, and participates in Section 106 review.

National Register of Historic Places 

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) records cultural resources. This register is the nation's official list of historic property, buildings, districts, structures, and objects that qualify for national preservation.

NRHP sites fall into five categories:

  1. Building: A house, barn, church, courthouse, jail, or other building with the principal purpose to shelter humans
  2. Structure: Building made for purposes other than sheltering humans
  3. Object: Items that are artistic in nature or small in scale associated with a specific setting or environment
  4. Site: Location of a specific event, occupation, or activity where the location itself possess historical, cultural, or archaeological value
  5. District: An area of significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, building, or structures united by a shared history

The Section 106 Review Process

This process is a part of the steps required for developers to obtain an NHPA section 106 permit. It requires federal government agencies to evaluate the impacts of actions they authorize, fund, or carry out on historic properties and cultural resources

Learn More about the National Historic Preservation Act here 

 

A Brief History of NHPA

Before the 1960s, awareness around historic preservation in the U.S. was largely nonexistent. Some early preservation efforts paved the way for comprehensive federal policy in the future. Those early efforts included the following:

Antiquities Act of 1906

This act established national monuments at a national historic landmark in remembrance of a significant event. President Teddy Roosevelt signed this act in 1906.

Sites Act of 1935

This act establishes national policies for historic site inventories and organized national parks under the National Parks Service.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Congress established this trust to acquire and preserve historical sites and objects. Additional permitting may apply when using this historic preservation fund for a project in a historic place.

The implementation of the Interstate Highway System and the Urban Renewal Program in the 1950s and 1960s led to widespread destruction of many historic properties and districts and increased public awareness around the cultural effects of urban renewal. In response, President Johnson passed the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966.

Free Permitting Checklist

Practical Tips to Avoid Environmental Risk on all Your Projects

Download our environmental permitting checklist to get a step-by-step list of ways to protect your project from the 9 most common environmental risks.

Download Your Checklist

NHPA Section 106 Review Process

Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to evaluate the impacts of actions they authorize, fund, or carry out on historic properties and cultural resources. The critical 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. This section also ensures public involvement by establishing State Historic Preservation Offices and State Historic Preservation Officers in each state. These divisions aid in compliance with the federal historic preservation law via a certified local government.

What is the Section 106 Review Process? 

A federal agency will evaluate a project’s impacts by requiring its proponents to undergo Section 106 Review with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure that no effects on sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

For example, suppose a project impacts wetlands within the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) jurisdiction (federal trigger: Clean Water Act Section 404). In that case, 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 were to avoid all impacts to wetlands (and other waters of the U.S.) and thereby avoid USACE permitting altogether, the project would not require Section 106 review since there is no federal trigger. Another example: if a project is federally-funded (federal trigger: funding), up to 100 percent of the project may have to be assessed for evidence of a cultural resource 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?

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. Additional review through the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Tribes, or National Hawaiian Organizations (NHO) when developing on these lands.

Additional Regulations for Cultural Resources

State Antiquities Codes/Preservation Laws

These laws require state agencies and political subdivisions to consider effects to cultural resources as part of their ground-disturbing and permitting actions. Not all states have an antiquities code.

Tribal Preservation Offices

These offices work with the National Parks Service to help Native American tribes preserve their historic properties and cultural traditions. THPOs receive funds to aid these efforts and create preservation programs to support the NHPA.

How to Find Historic Sites Near You

Whether laying new utility lines, planning out commercial real estate or building a new solar farm, identifying cultural and historic resources is essential in site selection. Protected landmarks and resources can delay or derail a project. Recognizing these risks is crucial for project success.

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

National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)

The National Park Services maintains a publicly-available list of national historical landmarks by each state which you can access. You can download an up-to-date spreadsheet of listings by county on this website. You can often pay consulting parties to do this process for you.

Transect NRHP Report

Transect uses data from the National Register of Historic Places and other accredited sources to generate a site-specific evaluation of NRHP sites. The data can create a map of these protected sites within a project’s property boundaries. Developers can use this tool to discover potential new sites with Transect Vision to find and map NRHP sites near you quickly. Transect can generate these maps within minutes.

Transect's Marketplace tool, the State Historic Preservation Office Records Search, generates a report of site-specific state register information. Permitting approval on many sites requires this private data. Therefore, additional research is needed. Transect partners with Alpine Archaeological Consultants and Gray & Pape Heritage Management to provide a site-specific record search facilitated through the respective state's state historic preservation officer. Transect completes this report within a few days.

Free Permitting Checklist

Practical Tips to Avoid Environmental Risk on all Your Projects

Download our environmental permitting checklist to get a step-by-step list of ways to protect your project from the 9 most common environmental risks.

Download Your Checklist