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Preservation Action, Legislative Update
Volume 18, Number 27, July 10, 2015 →

Appropriations Update: House Delays Vote of Interior Appropriations Bill

After hours of floor debate, House leadership pulled the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill from an expected vote, amid controversy over the display of the Confederate flag. With democrats largely opposing the bill, the controversy left the likelihood of final passage in jeopardy. Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) said a vote on the Interior Appropriations bill will be delayed until the Confederate flag issue can be resolved.

The bill includes $65.41 million for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), an increase $9 million over FY 2015 enacted levels. The HPF includes the following levels of funding:

  • $55.91 million for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, same as FY15 enacted levels. The President’s request included an $1 million increase for Tribal Historic Preservation Officers.
  • $6.5 million to preserve the sites and stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement. Not included in the FY15 appropriations and $23.5 million below the President’s request.
  • $2.5 million to preserve civil rights sites at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Not included in FY 2015 enacted levels, and equal to the President’s FY 2016 request.
  • $500,000 in grants for underrepresented communities, equal to FY15 enacted levels and the President’s request.

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During the House floor debate, the House approved an amendment, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), that increases the HPF by $4.5 million. Of that, $2 million would go to increasing the Civil Rights grant program and $2.5 million would go toward the preservation of Civil Rights sites at HBCUs. The amendment also included an additional $2.5 million for the National Park Service Civil Rights Initiative. The amendment was offset by reducing the Office of the Secretary Departmental Operations by $7 million.

The Senate Interior Appropriations bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, but still awaits a vote on the Senate floor. Many democrats and the Obama Administration oppose the bill due to dramatic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and numerous policy riders. With the Administration opposing many of the House and Senate’s appropriations bills and the possibility of a government shutdown looming in September, another Continuing Resolution (C.R) or Omnibus package seems likely.

President Obama Designates Three New National Monuments

President Obama designated three new National Monuments this week; the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, the Berryessa Snow National Monument in California, and the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas. These designations help tell the story of America and protects unique cultural and natural resources for future generations. With these three new designations, President Obama has established or expanded a total of 19 National Monuments.

  • The Basin and Range National Monument protects 704,000 acres in the Basin and Range region of Nevada. The designation spans the Mojave dessert and includes caves, petroglyphs and the “City“, a large art installation that has been in the works for more than 40 years.
  • The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is comprised of existing federal land in northern California and becomes second largest National Monument in California. Located in close proximity to major population areas like Sacramento and San Francisco, the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument provides an important recreation area to millions of Americans.
  • The Waco Mammoth National Monument, located in Waco Texas, permanently protects the site where extremely well-preserved fossils of Columbian Mammoths and other Ice Age animals have been found.

House Amendment Attempts to Block National Monument designation and Threatens to Undermine the Antiquities Act

During House debate of the Interior Appropriations bill, Rep. Crescent Hardy (R-NV) introduced an amendment that attempts to the block the designation of the Basin and Range National Monument. The amendment goes further and threatens to prevent future National Monument designations in western states by undermining the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the President power to create National Monuments to protect natural and culturally significant public lands. The amendment was agreed to by a vote of 222-206 and added to the Interior Appropriations bill.

The future of the amendment is uncertain; the Interior Appropriations bill still needs to pass the House and Senate, and the differences between the two bills need to worked out in conference. President Obama has threatened to veto the appropriations bill, due to dramatic cuts to the EPA and added policy riders. Preservation Action will continue to fight against any attempts to weaken the Antiquities Act.

San Antonio Missions Designated as World Heritage Site

The San Antonio Missions were designated a World Heritage Site at the 39th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The San Antonio Missions designation encompasses five Spanish colonial mission complexes in San Antonio, Texas, including the Alamo. The San Antonio Missions were one of 24 new sites inscribed to the World Heritage List this year, bringing the total number of sites inscribed worldwide to 1,031. The San Antonio Missions become the 23rd site in the United States to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell applauded the decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

“The San Antonio Missions is an extraordinary national and international treasure,” said Jewell. “The Missions interweave Spanish and indigenous cultures that are a vital part of America’s heritage, and their inscription as a World Heritage Site will draw visitors from around the world to San Antonio, providing an economic boost to the local community.”

39th Session of the World Heritage Committee, during consideration of the San Antonio Missions designation. Photo by Andrew Potts

39th Session of the World Heritage Committee, during consideration of the San Antonio Missions designation. Photo by Andrew Potts

Mission Concepción, ca. 1731, one of five Franciscan Missions of the National Historical Park and World Heritage List. Photo by Meagan Baco

Mission Concepción, ca. 1731, one of five Franciscan Missions of the National Historical Park and World Heritage List. Photo by Meagan Baco

National Headlines

New York Times: “Our National Parks: Make Upkeep a Priority

Stories From Around the States

North Carolina: “The Exasperating State of Historic Tax Credits in NC

Georgia: “Feedback Needed for GA Historic Preservation Grant

Wisconsin: “Gov. Walker’s Historic Tax Credit Cap Proposal Removed From Budget

Florida: “Preserve the Architectural History of Bay Harbor Islands

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