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Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation     


Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation
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House Appropriations Hearings Expose Shortfalls in Cultural Resource Management and Funding
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com - House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, National Trust for Historic Preservation, cultural resource funding, historic battlefield sites
Contributed By: The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Department of Public Policy
Email The Author: pr@nthp.org
Website: http://www.nthp.org

The House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies held its first set of hearings on the FY10 Interior Appropriations Bill this week, which included testimony from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Salazar was the main witness at the Wednesday hearing and fielded a number of questions about renewable energy and mining law reform. Salazar stated that he inherited over 200 applications for solar projects on Bureau of Land Management (BLM )lands which are “ready to go” but have not even had an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on 20 of the top projects they plan to fast track. Preservationists are concerned that the rush to fast track renewable energy projects like solar are also driving the urgency to expedite the siting of transmission corridors on public lands without proper environmental and cultural review. On mining reform, Salazar said he would support it and that there are many places where environmentalists and the mining industry are in agreement. However, Salazar expressed doubt that he would have time to bring the parties together on mining reform as his agenda with climate change, renewable energy, treasured landscapes and youth corps programs were keeping him preoccupied.

On Thursday, the subcommittee heard from National Park Service (NPS) Acting Director, Dan Wenk, who commented on issues that included cultural resource staff funding, heritage areas, and historic battlefields. Wenk noted that NPS is working on a response to a National Academy of Public Administration Report charge that NPS has been neglecting cultural resources, to which Wenk admitted that NPS has fallen short of the mark on cultural resource management. Wenk also discussed National Heritage Areas (NHAs) funding, which has received only level FY’09 funding ($16 million) in the administration’s FY10 budget, in spite of the addition of nine new heritage areas in a recently-passed omnibus public lands bill. Rep. John Olver (D-MA) also noted that heritage areas are supposed to receive $10 million each to get them started and to build momentum for obtaining private funding. However, established NHAs are only receiving about $350,000 and the newer units only $150,000.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) noted his love of historic parks and battlefields and expressed his concern about encroachment on these sites and asked if NPS if they had what they needed for land acquisition to protect these sites. Cole cited the example of the ongoing controversy with Wal-Mart over their planned development of a supercenter store within eyeshot of the Wilderness Civil War Battlefield in Orange County, Virginia. The National Trust is actively opposing the Wal-Mart development (for more information on the Trust’s campaign to save the battlefield visit http://www.preservationnation.org/take-action/advocacy-center/actionalerts/wal-mart-threatens-wilderness.html). NPS director Wenk responded in the general by saying that authorization for the Civil War Battlefield Fund had expired but that it has since been reauthorized and was funded at $4 million in the President’s FY10 budget. The battlefield fund was created to make necessary land acquisitions to protect historic battlefield sites from encroaching development.

Reprinted by permission of the Public Policy Department of the National Trust

 


Keywords: House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, National Trust for Historic Preservation, cultural resource funding, historic battlefield sites

Posted: May 15, 2009
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Unless noted, the thoughts and opinions expressed in the article are solely that of the
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