July Update from Washington

July in Washington, D.C. is a hectic time.  Congress and the Administration rush to pass laws and finalize decisions before August, when Congress goes on recess and the city feels deserted.  The flurry of activity has brought both good and bad news for supporters of historic preservation.

Meet With Your Member of Congress in August!

Given the political climate in Washington right now, it is more important than ever to engage with our lawmakers.  Members of Congress will be heading home in August, and they want to hear what matters to the people of their communities.  We have a step-by-step guide to help you arrange a meeting with your Member of Congress.  Plus, we have handouts about our issues that you can download and take to your meeting about help with any additional advice or materials you may need.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Defend Heritage Concerns During Public Comment Periods

We worried when President Trump ordered a review of all national monuments designated since 1996.  In response, the Coalition for American Heritage sent a letter to Secretary Zinke in defense of our national monuments.  More than 2.5 million Americans flooded the Department of the Interior with their comments too — including many of you.  They are proof of the widespread public support for the special places in America that tell our collective story.

Calls for public comment have been issued by other agencies as well, and it is vital that we respond. The Coalition submitted joint comments with the National Trust for Historic Preservation suggesting ways that the U.S. Department of Transportation can implement best practices that will help avoid unnecessary permitting delays without sacrificing the critically important protections that our laws give to our treatment of historic and environmental resources. Similarly, we submitted responses to the Bureau of Land Management on how the agency can improve its planning and permitting processes.

Budget Cuts Loom, But Congress Shows Support for Heritage

After President’s Trump’s budget proposal was revealed, many of us in the historic preservation community were deeply dismayed to see the massive cuts he proposed to key programs. But, while the President’s budget proposal is an important public statement of his values and priorities, Congress determines the final budget numbers. The Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is determining the funding levels for several important programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget.

The House bill includes:

  • $145 million each for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts
  • $74.41 million for the Historic Preservation Fund — a $6.5 million drop from FY17’s high of $80.91 million, but substantially more than the $51.1 million that the President proposed
  • State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices would receive $56.41 million instead of the $58.41 million they received last year — a $2 million cut
  • $500,000 for Underrepresented Community grants
  • $5 million for Save America’s Treasures
  • $6.4 million for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as it had requested

We are disappointed to report that the Civil Rights Initiative and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are both facing cuts.  Last year, the Civil Rights Initiative received $13 million, but the FY2018 bill only provides $10.5 million to document and preserve civil rights history in the national park system. HBCUs were cut by 40% — from $5 million to $3 million.

President Trump came into office vowing to cut all funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), but the current bill allocates $145 million to NEH. Again, it is a drop from last year’s number ($150 million), but a significant improvement upon the President’s proposal.  We hope that these funds will enable the nation to continue supporting archaeology and anthropology research that illuminates our history.

While these numbers are far from final, they are good indicators of the climate we face. They demonstrate that Members of Congress are willing to fund historic preservation programs at a higher level than President Trump envisioned.  But, for programs that have already had to make do with insufficient funding, these cuts are problematic.

We will continue to monitor the bill and advocate for the funds needed to protect America’s cultural resources.

Welcome to Our New Coalition Members!

Welcome to our new members: Save Our Heritage OrganisationThe Council of South Carolina Professional ArchaeologistsHeritage Ohio, and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center! Thanks to the generous support of our four founding organizations: the American Cultural Resources Association, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association, and theSociety for American Archaeology, membership in the Coalition is free.

As a Coalition member, you will receive emails with updates about how decisions in Congress and the White House impact our areas of concern.  Plus, we’ll provide helpful tools to assist you and your members in contacting your representatives in Congress and submitting comments to federal agencies.  We offer specific, timely information so that you have what you need to quickly and efficiently register your opinion.  Organizations and Individuals can join today.

For more of the latest heritage-related news, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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