By Elizabeth Hughes, Deputy Director of the Maryland Historical Trust
Every year, Maryland historic preservation advocates present their legislative agenda to federal policy makers on Capitol Hill. This pilgrimage is part of National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week, an annual event led by Preservation Action and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and supported by partner organizations from around the country.
All week, grassroots advocates meet to craft their messages, share information about pressing issues and hone their lobbying skills. This year, preservationists are discussing the impact of tax reform on the federal rehabilitation tax credit, how the Postal Service is handling post office closures, disaster recovery initiatives, and recognition of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.
Among the most important and perennial legislative “asks”is funding for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). The HPF, funded with Outer Continental Shelf oil drilling lease revenues, is little known outside federal and state agency circles. Yet, those monies are critical to implementation of the basic programs established by the National Historic Preservation Act.
In Maryland, HPF funds are used identify and document historic places, make nominations to the National Register, provide assistance on rehabilitation tax credit projects, review impacts of federal projects, work with local governments and preservation commissions, and conduct preservation education and planning. Ten percent of the HPF allocation is distributed to “Certified Local Governments” as sub-grants,with 21 Maryland counties and municipalities regularly accessing those funds to support survey, planning and educational activities.
While Maryland has experienced extraordinary success in developing effective historic preservation programs, the state’s investment in historic preservation activities has significantly outstripped the federal government’s commitment. Federal support has fallen far below what was intended when the NHPA was passed in 1966.
HPF monies are critical to implementing the core historic preservation programs that protect irreplaceable historic buildings and sites, help stimulate private investment, spur economic growth and create jobs in communities across the state. Garnering federal support for the Historic Preservation Fund is worth the trip to Capitol Hill, and a main reason we do it.
If you would like to join the effort to protect historic preservation in Congress, please sign up here to receive upcoming advocacy information. Thank you!