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 kenny k at: November 6, 2008
Sustainability is a MUST. Legislature encouraging sustainability will provide an expanded economy, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and create changes that will make it possible for citizens of the United States to spend less overall on energy.

Submitted by Bidgy at: November 6, 2008
Preserving public land for our furure inheritors, Economics being the most prominent issue in this past election and Transportation a vital necessity because of our failures in the past to fore see our short comings with the economic value of our fuel resourses seem to be the most leading actions as presented.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 6, 2008
An agenda should be established to highly prioritise America's needs. Never to diminsh the fact of preservation can be included in so many ways.

Submitted by Pontist at: November 6, 2008
The USA, as a nation, has yet to resolve how to save its historic bridges. Though its National Historic Bridge Program has been in place since 1987, until there is true leadership with specific legislation and funding incentives, bridges remain at risk. “Now that we’ve identified many of the Nation's historic bridges, what do we do with them?” States should be required to complete bridge preservation and management plans. As someone succinctly stated, “Now that we’ve identified all these wonderful spans, what do we do with them?” We need Congress to amend Title 23, Sec. 144 (o) Historic Bridge Program, by inserting the words “State historic bridge management/preservation plan” following item (2), and rephrasing the sentence to read as, “The Secretary shall require each State to complete a historic bridge management/preservation plan for all bridges on and off the Federal-aid system determined eligible or listed on the National Register of Historic Places as to their feasability to be continued in vehicular use or adaptively reused in some other capacity on a hiking or biking trail or relocated to a park road where their use wouldn’t be restricted by vehicle weight or capacity.” There can be no argument that selected examples of America’s historic bridges shouldn’t be saved for posterity. The USA, as a nation, has yet to resolve how to save its historic bridges. Though its National Historic Bridge Program has been in place since 1987, until there is true leadership with specific legislation and funding incentives, bridges remain at risk.

Submitted by Peggy at: November 6, 2008
All of these are vitally important to help protect and preserve the irreplaceable parts of our history that are at risk. To protect our future, we must preserve our past.

Submitted by Astrid at: November 6, 2008
Publicize the "embodied energy" metric and recycling existing buildings as "smart growth."

Submitted by RAF at: November 6, 2008
Expanding the funding for the Main Street program, SHPOs, and the Certified Local Government program/grants are particularly critical, as is sustaining preservation efforts for Federal agency archaeological responsibilities.

Submitted by Patricia at: November 6, 2008
Our next president should be encouraged to learn about the strong and effective preservation programs that have been established and growing since 1966. The effective structure mandated by the National Preservation Act of 1966 can even claim to have reversed decline in cities, to the degree that it has happened. But the impressive results are with a minimal budget that we have never been able to enlarge, as certainly it should have been based on results throughout the country.

Submitted by pumpupmainstreets at: November 6, 2008
I hope we will see a move away from trendy high-priced boutiques on reclaimed Main Streets and a move toward the types of businesses that are needed for the people who live there, and, more effort to rehabilitate and integrate Main Street or side-street housing opportunities in our Main Street programs and communities.

Submitted by alc at: November 6, 2008
I think all 6 action items are important, however the question asked us to select items that would have the biggest impact on OUR community. Consequently, I didn't select a few (natural disaster relief, for example), but feel that these are equally important as many of the actions are intertwined and relate to other federal agencies and policies.

Submitted by Leesa at: November 6, 2008
As a student in the field of Historic Presrevation, I feel that more people need to know about our heritage and our rise as a country if we want true patriots. Patriotism, I feel, is not just about supporting the decisions a president makes; it is also about respecting and appreciating the country that you live in and knowing where it has been. Once we know where we have been, we can look to the future with a renewed inspiration for the things that worked, and the things that didn't. Hopefully, through heritage preservation and the preservation of architecture, every American will gain pride in their nation and come together to sustain these buildings for future generations. These buildings have a lot to share and are not meant to be ignored. The word recycling usually calls to mind bottles and boxes, but the adaptive reuse of buildings has become an incredibly important area of energy conservation for our country. There are many reasons to preserve; and though not all matter to every person, most people can connect with the idea of heritage. Heritage keeps communities together, heritage brings strength during hard times, and heritage builds respect for this country. Thank you, and I hope that you can take some of these things into consideration.

Submitted by jeanne at: November 6, 2008
Some of your objectives are projects that should be considered under existing federal programs and your work would be a duplication of effort and funds. However, your cooperation with those federal agencies would be most benefical for our nation.

Submitted by sjh at: November 6, 2008
I am a strong supporter of preservation and believe that the historic fabric that exists across our country reminds us daily of who we are as a united people and makes us a stronger country. Even though this movement often scrapes by on little public money, I think that we will continue to need to do this, especially with the economic difficulties that our country and the world currently face. I think that the most critical step for the National Trust to persue as an advocacy group to the new administration is making sure that President-Elect Obama understands that current federal preservation programs are strong contributors to our economic, enviromental, and cultural sustainability. If the new administration does not understand how these programs contribute to everyone the programs become in danger of being cut. The preservation movement in the United States can not afford to have what little federal funding we receive cut. In partnership with that preservaton policy makers must look for new ways to partner the public/private sectors to ensure that preservation continues across the country.

Submitted by archaeoconsult at: November 6, 2008
How about more funding for SHPOs and the integration of technology - specifically online GIS and Databases of state inventoried historic properties?

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 6, 2008
I feel all of the selections are important and all share a common ground with preservation and maintaining existing structures and roadways. I can only hope that the new president will follow through with his "Change" policies! Kirstyn Lokker

Submitted by Maggie at: November 6, 2008
One of the most damaging impact of the Bush administration on Historical Preservation has been the changing of "rules." All rule changes impacting preservation should be reviewed and re-examined, most important is returning the process of National Historic Landmarking to a process whereby eligibility is the primary consideration and removing the requirement that the governmental body that owns the site MUST sign off on NHL designations. This has prevented many eligible sites from receiving deserved NHL designation. Requiring politicians to APPROVE was never what was intended by NHL designation.

Submitted by WDCII at: November 6, 2008
With all the emphasis on sustainable, green growth, it is important that we move to cement the link between adaptive reuse and environmentalism in the public eye.

Submitted by rouva bush at: November 6, 2008
All of the above action items are important if we are to preserve our history and our historic structures, places, and events. I would personnally like an empahsis on the Main Street programs as so many of our towns and cities are decaying, and have pockets of drug driven crime amidst our historic structures. We need to reclaim these areas, restore structures that give clues to our history, and help those who live there, as they strive to bring up their homes, streets, towns.

Submitted by jberg at: November 6, 2008
I truely believe that preservation is one way to effectively make a sustainable difference in community enhancement and economy. Just in the imbied energy alone historic buildings save us on energy dependence and creates new jobs in the area. Preservation is key to sustainablity and community pride

Submitted by Laura at: November 6, 2008
I think there needs to be enforced regulation concerning building and property maintenance. Many tear downs result from failure to maintain in the first place, and a claim that the building is too expensive to repair/restore after the fact. Maintenance funds need to be built into public and private property ownership.

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