Historic Preservation Fund

In 1976, Congress established the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) to support the initiatives mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. In 1980, Congress authorized $150M in annual OCS revenue for deposit into the HPF for the exclusive use of historic preservation activities. In spite of the annual deposits, Congress has never appropriated that amount. In fact since 2001, appropriations have declined from $94 million to less than $60 million.

Thank you to the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers for sharing their data.

  • SHPO – State Historic Preservation Offices
  • THPO – Tribal Historic Preservation Offices
  • HBCU – Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • SAT – Save America’s Treasures
  • PA – Preserve America
  • NTHP – National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • NPS – National Park Service

*Allocations from the Interior Appropriations Budget for the National Park Service (NPS) and National Heritage Areas are not part of the Historic Preservation Fund.

Year President’s Budget Final Total States Tribes S/THPO Total HBCU SAT PA NTHP NPS* National Heritage Areas*
2014 Omnibus 56.410 47.425 8.985 56.410 2.5 billion 18.3
2013 55.91 53.11 9 44.579 8.535 53.114 0 0 0
2012 61.00 56.00 46.925 8.985 55.910 0 0 0
2011 54.5 54.5 46.500 8 54.500 0 0 0
2010 77.675 79.5 46.500 8 54.500 0 25 4.6
2009 ARRA 0.000 15.000
2009 66.658 69.500 42.500 7.000 49.500 20.000 0.000

View the full HPF Funding Chart going back to 1968 

History of the Historic Preservation Fund

In 1976, Congress established the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) to support the initiatives mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Modeled after the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the HPF receives its funding through offshore oil and gas lease revenue from the outer-continental shelf (OCS) – using funds from one non-renewable resource to fund another non-renewable resource, our Nation’s heritage.

In 1980, Congress authorized $150,000,000 in annual OCS revenue for deposit into the HPF for the exclusive use of historic preservation activities. In spite of the annual deposits, Congress has never appropriated that amount. In fact since 2001, appropriations have declined from $94 million to less than $60 million. Thus, the amount unexpended and owed to preservation programs totals approximately $2.9 billion.

Adjusted for inflation, $150,000,000 in 1980 is the equivalent of over $411,000,000 today (2011).

The National Park Service administers the HPF. Eligible grant recipients include: State and Territorial Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO’s); Tribal Historic Preservation Offices; Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

State Historic Preservation Offices must provide a 40% match of non-federal funds (dollars and in-kind donations). The HPF also stipulates that 10% of each allocation to SHPO’s be passed through to Certified Local Governments (CLGs) in the form of matching grants. Once the amount awarded to SHPO’s exceeds $65 million, 50% of the overage is additionally awarded to CLGs. CLG grants fund a variety of preservation activities ranging from survey and education programs to bricks and mortar assistance.

Download the National Park Service HPF Annual Report for 2012  

Lobbying for the Historic Preservation Fund

Who to Talk to:

Every member of Congress but most importantly members of the Appropriations Committees and especially the House and Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittees, listed to the right.

What to Request:

Ask appropriators to fund a $10 million historic preservation grant program out of the the Historic Preservation Fund. If your member is not an appropriator ask him/her to contact his/her Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and/or Ranking Member — Jack Reed, Chair (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski, Ranking (R-AK) in the Senate; Michael Simpson, Chair (R-ID) and Jim Moran, Ranking (D-VA) in the House — to ask them to support $10 million for a fully competitive historic preservation grant program paid for via the Historic Preservation Fund.

Talking Points:


A key part of successfully implementing the National Historic Preservation Act is the ability to provide federal funding for bricks and mortar and training and development grant programs as called for in the NHPA. Historic Preservation is an economic driver creating jobs, local, state and federal tax revenues, private and public equity and community revitalization. Since last year (with the elimination of funding for Save America’s Treasures) there has been no funding from the Historic Preservation Fund appropriated for this purpose.


Over the years, the Save America’s Treasures program (defunded in 2011) contributed to the restoration of 1,132 historic structures. For a total federal investment of $293 million, an additional $377 in private investment was raised – creating more than 16,000 jobs. A similar competitive grant program can produce targeted returns and save our history – a win-win for our country.


In addition to creating initial jobs for architects, contractors, masons, painters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, and more – long-term jobs for maintenance workers, office staff, and hospitality/travel industry professionals are generated.


Historic Preservation Grants are a sign that our nation is working. They stabilize and revitalize our most precious historic assets, ensuring they are available for future generations and are among the most visible projects in communities – giving confidence and building pride in our national heritage.


 Before meeting with your Member, try to identify some substantial or important historic resources that are neglected or in need of restoration or rehabilitation.

Historic Preservation Fund Pop Quiz

When was the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) established?

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA P.L. 89-665, codified at16 U.S.C. 470) laid out the basic framework of the federal preservation program and set out to preserve the nation’s cultural resources. In implementing the Act, the Secretary of the Interior turned to the governors and asked them to partner in the new program to preserve the nation’s heritage. The NHPA also required that all funds appropriated to the States be matched, further solidifying the Federal-State partnership. Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) were later funded by the HPF beginning in FY1996.

What was the Historic Context?

The NHPA of 1966 did not establish the HPF.

In 1976, Congress went a significant step further, specifically authorizing the establishment of the HPF thus creating a dedicated funding source to carry out the provisions of the NHPA. The establishment of the HPF in the United States Treasury was one of the key provisions of Public Law 94-422 that amended and enhanced the NHPA of 1966. Senator Henry M. Jackson (D-WA) sponsored the bill that established the HPF in 1976. Jackson was also the sponsor of the bill that became the NHPA of 1966.

The HPF sets aside dedicated funds to support the programs and activities that were identified ten years earlier in the NHPA. Until the HPF was established, the mandates of the NHPA unfortunately were severely underfunded.

Housed in the Library of Congress, testimony surrounding the establishment of the HPF provides much insight to the current state of the American historic preservation movement. In a July 30, 1974 letter of testimony in support of the establishment of the HFP Tersh Boasberg, one of Preservation Action’s founders, stated, “Over 50% of the 12,000 buildings recorded in the Historic Buildings Survey since 1933 have been destroyed.”

The early 1970s saw eager anticipation and a swell of activity in preparation for our nation’s Bicentennial.  A heightened sense of pride existed and a desire to preserve our nation’s heritage and its buildings. Coupled with the outrage at the number of significant American buildings that had been lost, the establishment of the HPF was indeed a needed response that added enormous strength to the nation’s historic preservation program.

What is the Source of Funding to the HPF?

In the early 1970s a heightened sense of national pride was prevalent in preparation for our nation’s Bicentennial. This swell of activity promoted a desire to preserve our nation’s heritage and its buildings. That enthusiasm was tempered, however, by high unemployment rates, a struggling economy, energy shortages and a resulting desire for energy independence. Lawmakers were eager to make energy more available and looked to Great Britain as an example and its offshore drilling activities in the North Sea.

The HPF receives its annual deposit from off shore oil lease reserves. Off-shore drilling funds our national preservation program? Here is the justification:

Federal lands include those on the outer continental shelf and oil companies pay for the right to drill for oil on those lands off the coast of the United States. The exploitation of one valuable resource supports investment in another. This is the thrust of the HPF – and also the Land and Water Conservation Fund after which the HPF was modeled. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965 (PL 88-578). A share of proceeds from the consumption of one non-renewable natural resource (oil) is reinvested in our man-made historic and cultural resources.

How much is authorized annually for the Historic Preservation Fund?

At its inception 24.4 million was authorized for FY 1977 with 100 million annually in 1978 and 1979. From FY 1980 onward, the fund has received annual deposits of $150 million. The authorized funds deposited into the HPF are, however, subject to the appropriation process. Unexpended funds are to remain in the HPF until appropriated.

How was that amount determined?

The answer comes to us compliments of Nellie Longsworth and Loretta Neumann. Nellie Longsworth, a founder and first President of Preservation Action, was President of Preservation Action for 22 years and continues on as an honorary member of its Board of Directors.  Loretta Neumann, long time staff person to Rep. John F. Seiberling (D-OH), was with the National Park Service prior to joining Seiberling’s staff.

The HPF was added as an amendment to House legislation that Rep. John F. Seiberling (D-OH) introduced in 1974 to triple the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) from $300 million per year to $900 million per year.  The LWCF funds federal and state outdoor recreation and land acquisition programs with revenues derived from federal receipts from Outer Continental Shelf oil leasing. During the markup, Rep. Seiberling was asked if he were willing to have the HPF added to it, plus a few other provisions.  He agreed to the suggestion.

As a staff person to Rep. Seiberling, Loretta Neumann drafted the House of Representatives bill that would amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  Nellie and Loretta recently recalled a meeting with a staff member from Legislative Counsel who was reviewing the draft bill. The House of Representatives Office of Legislative Counsel provides confidential and impartial drafting services and advice for House members and committees.

The Legislative Counsel staff person helping draft the House version of the bill threw out a number and said, “Let’s say $150 million.” Loretta and Nellie enthusiastically replied, “Terrific!” They never imagined that this seemingly enormous amount (at the time) would remain intact as the amount deposited still today.

What is the current, unexpended balance in the HPF?

According to the United States Treasury Department the current estimated balance at the end of FY11 will be over $2.9 billion.  Yes, BILLION with a “B.”  The fund has grown steadily over time, accruing offshore oil lease revenue, and $150 million is authorized to be spent each year on HPF programs. Only the annual appropriated amounts may be withdrawn. Technically, the balance may not be used for any other purpose than to fund the nation’s preservation program.

Congress has largely ignored this commitment to America’s heritage. Indeed, almost from the beginning, Congress has never lived up to its promise to adequately fund historic preservation. It is up to us to persuade and remind Congress of the merits of historic preservation – of its important role in the economic health, livability and heritage of our communities. Without our support and attention HPF programs are threatened and may well be eliminated due to underfunding.  

Since 2001, funding appropriated to the HPF has been reduced from $94 million to less than $60 million. The reduction has had a severe impact on State Historic Preservation Offices. Funding to SHPOs dropped nearly 30% between 2001 and 2003, and this reduction was maintained for years. This decline, coupled with unprecedented state budget cuts is proving catastrophic in many communities. While President Obama’s FY2012 budget proposes $51 million for SHPOs (up from $46.4 in FY 2011), the House has proposed a cut to $42.4 million.

Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) are also suffering greatly from lack of adequate funding. The President’s proposed FY 2012 budget calls for the THPOs to receive $11 million – up $7.9 million in FY 2011, but the House is proposing a cut to $7 million.  The THPO program began with 12 tribal governments each receiving an average award of $79,875.  Today, with over 120 THPOs, $7 million would mean about $58,300 per program.

In FY 2011, funding for Save America’s Treasures – the only federal grant program dedicated to bricks and mortar preservation project grants was eliminated.  Funded out of the HPF, this $25 million cut represented an enormous reduction in funding.

What is at Stake?

Under-funding seriously jeopardizes the federal preservation program and by extension State and local preservation efforts. As the dollars and staff sizes shrink in the SHPOs and THPOs difficult choices must be made. There may be no alternative but to realign priorities and eliminate discretionary programs — public education, support for private sector non-profits, site visits to communities, marketing the rehabilitation tax credit — in order to have sufficient resources to address the activities about which SHPOs have no discretion: responding to rehabilitation tax credit applications, and commenting on Section 106 cases. Further, HPF reductions also lengthen response times for such reviews — the work load remains constant while the number of qualified staff declines.

These examples — and there are many more — illustrate the debilitating consequences of under funding and serve to suggest the incredible advances that full funding could secure. At a time when Americans, like never before, are searching to understand and celebrate the hallmarks of our democracy and our unique American experience, we have to hold the federal government to its responsibilities put into law decades ago. There is much that you can do.

Have you contacted your legislator lately?

Each year preservationists are called upon to defend the federal historic preservation program and this year is certainly no exception. We are demanded to explain the value and importance of this program that is constantly under attack – or is simply misunderstood.

We must continually educate our members of Congress and their staff about the HPF programs and their dedicated funding stream. This funding and program is not a so-called “earmark.” The annual appropriation withdraws a small amount from a very large fund of existing money that cannot by law be used for any other purpose. Our perennial “asks” come directly from this fund.  There is no “offset” that must be designated.  In other words, tax dollars are not being spent on this program.

Tell them about Preservation Projects in their District!

There is perhaps no better illustration of the impact and effectiveness of the HPF than local, shining examples of the HPF at work. Every district has them – make sure your legislator is supplied with images, facts and figures about them. 

HPF-funded programs have established a successful set of incentives, regulations, and assistance that foster local decision making and direct private investment to maximize the viability of existing resources. Many activities are made possible by the HPF, but their effectiveness is increasingly compromised by staff layoffs, lack of funds for survey and documentation work, and frustratingly slow turn around times for reviews and certifications.

Specific examples of how these programs work in your community, and illustrations of the tremendous need for such programs will help you reinforce the importance of adequate, increased funding for the States, Tribes and territories through the Historic Preservation Fund.

Additional Resources

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