President's Note

Critical Juncture

Richard Moe

Credit: Robert Lautman

Plans for the inauguration of a new president are shifting into high gear as I write this. It's a sobering yet exciting time in Washington—and particularly exciting for the National Trust for Historic Preservation because these weeks represent a unique window of opportunity to help shape the preservation policy agenda for President-elect Barack Obama's administration and the new Congress.

As we have with previous administrations of both parties, we've crafted a platform calling for new and strengthened laws, policies, and programs to expand preservation-based economic development incentives, address climate change and environmental degradation, and improve federal stewardship of historic and cultural resources. We know that preservation works. It's a powerful tool for building communities that are sustainable, economically viable, and truly livable, and our agenda can make it work even better. 

We heard a lot about "change" during the campaign, so it is fitting that technological changes enabled us to get help from you, our members and friends. On the morning after Election Day, we posted a story on the National Trust's website,, outlining our platform and asking for reactions and suggestions. Within a few days, hundreds of responses arrived, and they're still coming in.

The comments paint a compelling picture of the vision and passion that fuel this nation's preservation movement. Many writers had strong opinions about priorities. One said, "Homeowners are in desperate need of tax breaks as incentives to maintain their historic homes," and another stated, "Nothing … is more urgent than the need to train people in the preservation trades." Several spoke forcefully of the necessity to adequately fund the state preservation offices, which one writer called "the core of the preservation movement." Another urged that we "push for full funding of the National Park Service. They are limping along!"

I was particularly encouraged by the widespread endorsement of our new sustainability program, which spotlights preservation's role in fostering sustainable development, conserving energy, and addressing the climate-change crisis. Wasting no words, one response insisted "the #1 focus should be ECONOMY and #2 is GLOBAL WARMING." Equally powerful were these messages: "It is important that we move to cement the link between adaptive use and environmentalism in the public eye," and "Preservation was at the forefront of the 'green'… movement long before it even had a name." I was especially struck by the succinctness and dead-on accuracy of this observation: "One guiding principle for preservation and sustainability: Fix it first."

My thanks to all who have shared opinions and ideas. Keep them coming. We know we've crafted an ambitious agenda, and we know we’ll need your help in moving it forward. But we also know—and your comments confirm—that preserving America's heritage is a job worthy of our best efforts.

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.