Overview of Preservation Legislation

With passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 (NHPA), Congress made the Federal Government a full partner and a leader in historic preservation. While Congress recognized that national goals for historic preservation could best be achieved by supporting the drive, enthusiasm, and wishes of local citizens and communities, it understood that the Federal Government must set an example through enlightened policies and practices.

National Historic Preservation Act

In the words of the Act, the Federal Government's role would be to "provide leadership" for preservation, "contribute to" and "give maximum encouragement" to preservation, and "foster conditions under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony."

Indeed, an underlying motivation in passage of the Act was to transform the Federal Government from an agent of indifference, frequently responsible for needless loss of historic resources, to a facilitator, an agent of thoughtful change, and a responsible steward for future generations.

The ACHP works with the federal government to establish groundbreaking policies and legislation for historic preservation.
  1. The National Historic Preservation Act has led to major changes in the employment trends in historic preservation fields. Archaeologists, historians, historic architects, and others have been employed in vast numbers in the field of cultural resource management, which encompasses archaeology, historic preservation and other disciplines.

Executive Orders

While the National Historic Preservation Act is the principal Federal law dealing with historic preservation, there are numerous other statutes that relate to various aspects of the Federal historic preservation program. These range from the protection of archaeological sites on Federal lands, to the recognition of properties of traditional cultural or religious significance to Native Americans.

  1. This order moves to accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners, and avoid affecting the physical integrity of those sites in any adverse way.
  2. The Federal Government will provide leadership in preserving America's heritage by actively advancing the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of the historic properties owned by the Federal Government, and by promoting cooperation among government organization for the preservation and use of historic properties.
  3. The Federal Government has undertaken various efforts to revitalize central cities, which have historically served as centers for growth and commerce in metropolitan areas. The Federal Government shall utilize and maintain historic properties and districts, especially those located in central business areas.
  4. In order to protect and restore rivers and their adjacent communities, the American Heritage Rivers initiative has three objectives: natural resource and environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation.