President Obama submitted his FY’11 budget request to Congress on February 1st and delivered a stunning blow to preservationists by slashing funding for some of the nation’s signature historic preservation programs — the Save America’s Treasures (SAT), Preserve America and Heritage Areas Partnership programs.
Restoring funding to these programs is a top priority of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust is formulating a campaign strategy that will include outreach and education, as well as all of the statistically data available to make the case for the effectiveness of these essential programs.
Below is a summary of the devastating effect and impact of the Administration’s proposed cuts to these historic preservation programs that not only preserve our cultural heritage, but also sever as major economic engines for the nation’s struggling economy.
Bricks and Mortar Funding:
The loss of SAT funding ($25 million) translated into a 31 percent cut for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) while Preserve America funding ($4.6 million) was eliminated from the Interior Department’s National Recreation budget. SAT, the nation’s only bricks-and-mortar grant program has been the federal government’ most successful tool to preserve the important places that tell our nation’ story. Due to the broad, bi-partisan Congressional support it has on the Hill, the program has saved over 700 of America’ most significant places in all 50 states, supporting jobs and economic development in every single project it covers. SAT stands out as a model of efficiency and effective spending. In addition, every grant recipient under SAT is required to find a dollar-for-dollar, non-federal match. To date, SAT has raised more than $350 million in non-federal and private funds and has been enormously successful in leveraging privatesector financing while also creating productive and sustained partnerships with large corporations, foundations, and individuals that provide matching contributions. Some of the places and iconic cultural objects that SAT has helped preserve since 2000 include: Ellis Island, Mesa Verde National Park, Valley Forge, Thomas Edison’ Invention Factory, and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Overall, the HPF would receive $54.5 million in FY’11 under the Obama budget, providing FY’10 level funding for State Historic Preservation Offices ($46.5 million) and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices ($8 million).
Preserve America has provided more than $17 million in matching grants to 228 projects through the country since 2006 to support community efforts to demonstrate sustainable uses of their historic and cultural sites, focusing on economic and educational opportunities related to heritage tourism. The competitive grants, ranging from $20,000 to $250,000 with a required one-to-one match, support planning, development, implementation, or enhancement of innovative activities and programs in heritage tourism. Eligible grant activities include research and documentation, planning, interpretation/education, promotion, and training. Successful projects involve public-private partnerships and serve as models to communities nationwide for heritage tourism, historic preservation, education, and economic development.
And the economic development impact of heritage tourism is significant. According to a recent Advisory Council on Historic Preservation report that looked at heritage tourism in Arkansas, for example, just a 5% increase in Arkansas’ heritage tourism visits would result in 1,100 new jobs, $16 million in new household income annually, and $3.7 million in new state and local tax revenue each year. To read the full text of this report visit http://www.achp.gov/docs/Preserve%20America%20Grants%20Effectiveness%20Final.pdf.
In addition, the Administration’s budget terminates 50 percent of funding ($9 million) for heritage area partnerships and imposes “new and unjustified language” on national heritage areas (NHAs). According to the National Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA), this language changes the distribution of funds to 22 NHAs and eliminates authorized funding to those established prior to 2001, and also penalizes them for not meeting a set of guidelines by the National Park Service on sustainability that are not even developed yet. The budget also ignores the National Park Service’s Second Century Commission’s strong recommendations that call for Congress to ‘authorize, clearly define, and base fund a system of National Heritage Areas.’ Instead, the Administration budget appears to circumvent congressional intent in existing authorizing legislation by changing how NHAs are funded.
The short-sightedness of the administration’ budget request is also evident in a recent joint study by the U.S. Cultural and Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce that reveals that “cultural heritage travelers contribute more than $192 billion annually to the U.S. economy.”
Reprinted by permission of the Public Policy Department of the National Trust