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Preservation Action, Legislative Update
Volume 16, Number 3 – January 18, 2013

House Passes Sandy Legislation: $50 Million for HPF

On Tuesday night of this week the House of Representatives passed more than $50 billion in disaster relief funding for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Thanks to the work of Preservation Action and its partners the final package included $50 million in additional funding appropriated from the Historic Preservation Fund. These funds will be distributed through State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices in the form of grants for the vital restoration and rehabilitation of historic properties and resources.

The bulk of the funding measure, introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) included the same funding measures originally passed in the Senate at the end of December.

A last-minute amendment offered by Rep. Benishek (R-MI) almost through a major wrinkle in the HPF funding by necessitating a matching component to the grant funds – similar to what is already in place for State Historic Preservation Office allocations from the HPF. Fortunately, preservation advocates were able to make the case to enough legislators that this requirement, not in place with the similar funding available following Hurricane Sandy, was inconsistent as well as a burden upon communities already struggling to recover. In a rare nail-biting recorded vote the amendment failed by only four votes.

Secretary of Interior Salazar to Step Down

After months of speculation it was announced this week that Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, will be stepping down by the end of March to return to his home state of Colorado. In a written statement issued by the Department of Interior, Salazar is credited with “usher[ing] in a new era of conservation to protect America’s lands, wildlife, and heritage.”

Under the banner of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program, Salazar has focused on the establishment of ten national wildlife refuges and seven national parks. He has also devoted a great deal of time on the development of renewable energy projects on public lands and on the outer continental shelf including Cape Wind.

Salazar’s record with preservationists is mixed. He is credited for being the first Secretary to call for full funding of the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), however under his leadership all funding for the Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America programs, funded via the HPF, was eliminated.

GAO Issues Report on Historic Buildings Management

Recently the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report designed to assess issues related to the identification, protection and use of historic properties managed by federal agencies. Entitled “Improved Data Needed to Strategically Manage Historic Buildings, Address Multiple Challenges,” the report was developed in consultation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the General Services Administration, the National Park Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The report concludes that while many historic buildings meet the general needs of their managing agency, many face an array of management challenges including current building codes, budgetary limitations, and contemporary mission needs. While many agencies have strived to identify and manage historic buildings in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the GAO further concludes that available data is incomplete.

The Federal Real Property Profile (FRRP) is the current collection mechanism used to store available resource data. The report recommends that the consulting agencies unite to develop an action plan to improve the FRRP for historic buildings and that the ACHP be provided access so that they can better fulfill its advisory role to Congress and the President.

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