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 Mark at: November 5, 2008
If it is historic it needs to be saved. Every effort needs to be made to save what history is left if our future generations are to see what was behind them.

Submitted by RustyAlaska at: November 5, 2008
Being from Alaska, the buildings around are historic from 1920s, 1950s, or 1970s+. Then I walk into the Oldest Wooden School in St. Augustine, Florida. It changes you. Next I will be looking for structures and areas of the Americas which man lived before Columbus 'discovered' America?

Submitted by cynthiak at: November 5, 2008
Every aspect of Historic Preservation is invaluable. Especially given the historical significance of this presidential election. Not only should we strive to move forward, to change, but the significance of any program of historical context should not be dealt with as an "afterthought". Too much can be lost in such a minimal amount of time

Submitted by Sara at: November 5, 2008
Economy: leveraging money, providing jobs Public land use & protection (join Forest Service, BLM, e.g.) Stewardship--NPS budget--all sites need work!

Submitted by Claire at: November 5, 2008
I think all of them should be priorities. One additional priority that should be addressed is how we communicate preservation principles to the general public. We need to understand their needs and communicate preservation ideals in a way that shows an understanding of the different views of all involved.

Submitted by Miss Kitty at: November 5, 2008
Buffalo, NY's historic west side neighborhood is in danger of being torn down for a truck plaza for new bridge to Canada. It is not necessary to destroy this neighborhood. Other options exist, but have not been seriously considered. It's shameful.

Submitted by Sarah at: November 5, 2008
One issue that concerns me that falls somewhat under "preparedness" is the willingness to pre-empt preservation and environmental legislation in the name of National Security. Our borders haven't changed in decades, so the acquistion of baseline inventory information for future planning should be done before there is a critical need. Then, when facilities must be built on our borders, or other significant impacts are created, historic places and the environment can be considered. Other endangered areas should be treated the same way. The effects of Katrina on New Orleans were of no surprise to scientists, only to politicians. Other similarly endangered areas are certainly known.

Submitted by fed contractor at: November 5, 2008
Federal officials need to be educated and have a mandate to commit resources to historic preservation. The current laws are not being enforced. Major lack of commitment on all levels except for the few federal historic preservation officers. The NPS is loosing experienced professionals in droves due to lack of funding and interest by those in power.

Submitted by aggie at: November 5, 2008
Need Economic Support and Sustainability for small towns before they are lost. Help needed for my crumbling and threatened small town with over 100 yrs of common man's architecture in 1 sq. mile, including the town's founder house built in the 1850s and the Commander's House moved from the nearby 1880s Fort (both need rehab). The built history is slowly disappearing and taking with it the town's character which had sustained the town's economy. We are becoming a nuisance for travelers on the federal highway going through the middle of town to some place else. Traditional outdoor recreation has diminish from a devastating fire last year which scorched thousand of acres of the mountain side of vegetation (and within feet of burning the town). This year in the same location of the fire, a heavy thunderstorm sent mud flows down the denuded canyons damaging historic homes, roads, vegetation and laying a wide swath of four foot deep mud/ash outside the creek bed. Although the uncontroled fire and mud flows came from Forest Service land there were no plans to do rehabilitation after the fire, nor after the mud flow. Now before congress there is legislation to make this same area a federal Wilderness Area with the threat remaining. I am sure there are many other small town with the like problems and do not have the where-with-all to solve.

Submitted by Florida AA Heritage Network at: November 5, 2008
Provide more funding to private non-profit historic preservation organizations of long-standing that have given their personal resources, financially and time-wise, often as volunteers giving over the long-haul to preserve the historical and cultural landmarks and legacies that have helped to build and sustain the foundations of our society. In this category are: museums, cultural/literacy and heritage education programs, holders of significant historical collections in under-funded organizations. These programs need to be better supported with funding opportunities that are not cost prohibited because of astronomical challenges (i.e: requirement of huge amounts of cash as match in order to qualify). Establish a program that will institutionalize these museums, connecting them with universities, state programs, etc. that are already funded substantially by the federal government.

Submitted by Artie at: November 5, 2008
Preserve the Historic Art Train that travels across country showing art in out of the way urban AND suburban locations to school kids and adults.

Submitted by alpar at: November 5, 2008
you could cut our use of oil-gas by 20% or more , put 1000,s of people to work , cut our carbon foot print by 1000's of tons , and have much clearer air in 100,s of our cities by rebuilding the trolloy car systems [ light rail ] that most cities had up until the 1950,s ! many people who will not use buses will use trolloys ! most of our car miles are within 10 milies of where we live , and having trolloys will help bring back our downtown areas , we all win !! go green !!!!

Submitted by Ambrosia O'Neil at: November 5, 2008
These are all important issues and the National Trust should not neglect any of them! Thank you so much for all the work you do. There are no words to aptly describe the importance of the National Trust in preserving this country's rich heritage and in staying vigilant in the fight to improve all our lives through historic preservation.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 5, 2008
It's all important.

Submitted by Kellam at: November 5, 2008
The importance of the preservation of cultural landscapes both natural and designed should not be overlooked.

Submitted by Toby Weiss at: November 5, 2008
Even without government intervention we have begun to conserve and adapt our behavior because we simply can't afford energy. People will gravitate back to city centers for economic energy reasons. Let's make it easy and practical to move back to what already exists.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 5, 2008
Thank you for the work you are doing to preserve our history.

Submitted by Brian at: November 5, 2008
Many communities in the US suffer from an identity crisis. They do not know who they are, where they've been, or where they're going. "Historic Preservation" provides therapy and counseling for strong and healthy communities with purpose and direction. Historic Preservation can and should be a part of the "Change" that politicians shouted about and the voters responded to.

Submitted by Frank at: November 5, 2008
Historic Preservationists need to become more careful about over-reaching on marginal projects. The public is fickle and can turn against a movement that becomes fanatical and burdensome. Cool it.

Submitted by Bonnie at: November 5, 2008
Many of our older buildings are our greener buildings. To encourage reuse both for business and housing purposes should be rewarded. On the other hand our rural and historic lands are endangered in many cases and need protection for the viability of our planet and society. The Administration needs to do what it can to protect our historic lands and buildings by supporting and rewarding efforts to care for our history. Government rewarding can encourages citizen involvement at a lower cost to the government itself.

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