Change Starts Here: Preservation Priorities for President Obama

The parade is over and the balls are history: Barack Obama is officially the 44th President of the United States.

Just as it has with administrations from both parties for many years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is eager to work with the Obama Administration on policies that protect and enhance our country’s irreplaceable historic resources, but we can’t do it without you.

From Main Street to your street, President Obama can provide leadership for strong and effective federal stewardship of our heritage that builds livable, sustainable and economically-viable communities while preserving our history for future generations.

As we continue to work with the new administration, we want to hear from you. Tell us which of the following action items have the biggest effects in your community, and then post comments with your own unique preservation stories and ideas.

Preservation and the Economy

Main Streets across the country – both urban commercial centers and rural downtowns – are struggling. President Obama should propose preservation-based economic development incentives, such as expanding the historic rehabilitation tax credit that created 40,000 new jobs last year and has, to date, leveraged over $45 billion in private investment and returned over 34,800 buildings to productive reuse.

Historic Preservation and Sustainability

As opposed to new construction, preservation responsibly conserves the built environment, which is an effective tool for reducing carbon emissions, combating climate change, and saving money on energy bills. President Obama should support measures that provide strong incentives to reuse and retrofit existing homes and buildings, recycle materials, increase building efficiency and maximize inherent environmental benefits.

Historic Preservation and Natural Disaster Relief and Preparedness

Devastating natural disasters have damaged historic structures and communities in the Gulf Coast and the Midwest. Because natural disasters have an immediate and widespread effect on historic properties, President Obama should develop a preparedness plan including a proactive, comprehensive survey of disaster-prone historic resources as well as addressing urgent response and recovery.

Historic Preservation and Transportation Policies

Transportation and preservation share a common goal to create better lives for Americans. As Congress prepares to reauthorize our nation's transportation programs, President Obama should continue to fund transportation enhancements and propose policies that support preservation-based approaches to strengthening our nation's transportation resources, such as the reuse of existing infrastructure in older and historic communities.

Historic Preservation and Public Land

A variety of threats, including insufficient historic and archeological survey information, expose millions of acres of public land to vandalism, destruction and neglect. President Obama should provide agency-wide leadership to responsibly manage historic and cultural resources on public lands.

Historic Preservation and Federal Stewardship

The federal government funds the national historic preservation program and provides critical leadership among its agencies to care for historic resources. President Obama should propose full funding to protect our heritage, and ensure that preservation reviews take place in the earliest phases of project development, not as an afterthought.


This story is closed to new comments.

Submitted by Dan at: November 5, 2008
The new administration should consider strengthening programs that document the nation's historical resources BEFORE they come under the threat of federally-funded development.

Submitted by Nancy at: November 5, 2008
Rehab tax credits do not necessarily help the smaller entrepreneur in historic preservation, especially for rolling renovations in poor communities with high local commercial tax rates. What other possibilities are there?

Submitted by paola at: November 5, 2008
All worthy objectives, but the economics of preservation might have more "legs" with the non-preservation minded.

Submitted by Robin at: November 5, 2008
We have many great historic properties in our traditional downtowns, that are privately owned by people that cannot afford to restore and renovate them. The neglect of these properties has a negative impact on the local economies, and the ability of the local commercial districts to attract tenants or customers for existing local buisnesses. Initiatives need to be developed that help the private sector restore these valuable landmarks so that our community-focused downtowns can be brought back to life. Programs that focus on this aspect of preservation help both the economy and our move toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

Submitted by Lila at: November 5, 2008
The Obama Administration will be facing critical issues - and if preservationists want his attention, perhaps we should embrace "change" within our own field. This could be a good time to critically assess the state of preservation in the US. Serious planning for future programs and priorities might incorporate some of the actual goals of the Obama administration so the Trust works in partnership with him, rather than just continuing to lobby the President for support.

Submitted by Bob at: November 5, 2008
Don't forget - archaeological sites warrant preservation, not just worthy structures.

Submitted by barb at: November 5, 2008
I am surprised you don't have historic preservation and affordable housing on the list, including the previously proposed tax incentives for this effort. Renewing funding for CBDG at previous levels would also be helpful for communities that use CBDG funds for preservation efforts.

Submitted by Bobby at: November 5, 2008
Full enforcement of NEPA would help a lot. Encourage nominations to NRHP and application of mitigation measures. Publicity for new listings to NRHP; inclusion of them in tourist brochures.

Submitted by Robby at: November 5, 2008
One priority of rebuilding the economy needs to be providing more funding to state and local preservation programs. With budget cuts affecting every aspect of government spending, unfortunately preservation, cultural programs, museums, and education are typically hit first. Preservation departments and programs from the local through the state (and federal) for that matter, need to be better supported through funding so that they can provide the best possible management of cultural resources.

Submitted by PAST at: November 5, 2008
A SHORT list of priorities is better than a long one. He will be overwhelmed with requests and info. Also the #1 focus should be ECONOMY and #2 is GLOBAL WARMING.

Submitted by Susan at: November 5, 2008
If we don't preserve the past our children and grandchildren will never learn how we achieved what we have today. This is critical for an educated population and right now our history is sadly lacking in the schools.

Submitted by Francis at: November 5, 2008
What is so critical is that Government Agencies fully understand Native American issues and protecting cultural resources. Section 106 critrion D, is overly used by the scientific community and not wanting to use the other critrions A,B,C, thus leave a void between the communities.

Submitted by Kate at: November 5, 2008
We are in danger of being the victims of the Candian National's takeover of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern train line which will put 6x the number of trains on the tracks through my little train town of West Chicago, IL. Please put this high on the agenda. Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 5, 2008
The two biggest challenges facing our country are climate change and the economy. Supporting sustainable building practices and creating jobs to preserve our heritage are vital to reshaping our economy.

Submitted by Ken at: November 5, 2008
I have seen cases of federal monies being restricted in such a a way as to encourage new construction at the expense of preservation. New buildings are being built or even required with federal funds rather that could have been better spent to renovate existing structures. There should be a standard for tax abatements in historic renovation. Finding adequate insurance for neglected structures has been a challenge for us. Thank you!

Submitted by Lizzie at: November 5, 2008
Provide adequate financial support for State Historic Preservation Offices and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices.

Submitted by Nathalie at: November 5, 2008
I think your arguments will be most compelling to the new administration if you frame them around the economy, sustainability, and transportation policy. The greenest building is the one that's already there, and the pre-WWII built environment is inherently more sustainable (i.e., walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly, etc) than auto-dependent suburbia. The stewardship of our historic infrastructure and development patterns will become increasingly relevant as energy scarcity and global warming rear their ugly heads during the coming century.

Submitted by Linda at: November 5, 2008
I would like to see a continuation of all programs currently in effect. By preserving and sharing our past we look to the future.

Submitted by JED at: November 5, 2008
I agree that the National Register guidelines need to be strengthened. At the same time, the preservation laws also need to be strengthened and made more consistent across the country. The historic fabric of our communities is being eroded away because all of the guildelines and preservation laws emphasize the preservation of "landmarks" and disregard the importance of those resources that act as a backdrop for the landmarks. Consequently, the fabric is demolished, thereby diminishing the historic character of the landmarks and destroying the historic character of our communities. One way to strengthened the system, so to speak, would be to create specific definitions of the different ways resources can be significant (fabric, landmark, contributing) which would help to put the importance of historic resources in better perspective.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 5, 2008
There is no issue more critical to our future than preserving the land, the stories and the monumnets of our past.

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