President’s FY13 Budget Request: Highlights of Major Provisions Affecting Historic Preservation

On Monday, February 13, President Barack Obama's FY 2013 budget request was sent to Capitol Hill with both significant cuts and increases to historic preservation programs. The National Trust recognizes that today’s tough economic and political climate requires a hard look at our federal spending, but we believe that the federal budget cannot and should not be balanced disproportionately on the backs of preservation.

Preservation is a proven job creator and tool for community revitalization. While the proposed increases were encouraging, it is our hope that Congress will support an increase in both Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) funding and consider a “bricks and mortar” grant funding for our most important national historic treasures. In addition, the proposed 46 percent decrease in funding for Heritage Partnership Programs and a 6.2 percent reduction for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation are disappointing.

Historic Preservation Fund and Core Programs

The FY13 budget proposes $55.9 million for the Historic Preservation Fund. This is level with FY12’s enacted level. While we appreciate there is not a cut to this program, we are hopeful that Congress will provide a modest increase for this program. The HPF is the principal source of funding to implement the nation’s historic preservation programs. It provides matching grants to State Historic Preservation Officers and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers to implement preservation programs on the ground.

Inadequate funding for HPF limits support for planning, survey, inventory, public and project review for the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HTC), State and Tribal Historic Preservation Plans, and the National Register of Historic Places. We are hopeful that Congress will also consider options to provide “bricks and mortar” grant funding for our most important national historic treasures.

The FY13 budget proposes $9.3 million for Heritage Partnership Programs, which fund National Heritage Areas (NHA). This is an $8.1 million decrease from the FY12 enacted level of $17.3 million. This is a disappointing cut given the fact that NHAs are congressionally designated places where community driven partnerships advance heritage conservation and economic development. NHAs have leveraged each dollar of federal investment by $5.50.

The FY13 Budget also proposes $5.7 million for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. This is a decrease of over $385 thousand from the FY12 enacted level of $6.1 million. The Advisory Council is the independent federal agency in charge of Section 106 reviews and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

National Parks and Historic Resources

National Park Service Operations (National Park Units): The President's Budget requests an increase of $13.5 million for a total of $2.3 billion for National Park Service Operations, which provides the staff, rangers and interpretation vital to the public who visit and enjoy our National Parks and National Historic Sites.

Cultural Resource Stewardship (External Programs): The FY13 request is $25 million, $55 thousand over enacted. In the last budget proposal the president proposes a 1% cut to this account. This program funds National Register Programs, the Tax Credit Program, Japanese American Confinement Site Grants, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Grants Program and Heritage Partnership Programs (Heritage Areas). Sadly, the administration’s proposed budget specifically requests an $8.1 million reduction in the Heritage Areas program as it did last year.

Construction: The National Park Service Construction account has been significantly eroding, from $233 million in FY11 to the current proposal of $131 million. This proposed cut of $24 million is a significant loss from last year's enacted amount of $159 million. This account pays for important maintenance projects and decreasing it will only increase the already huge deferred maintenance backlog. Of the substantial deferred maintenance needs for National Park Service, $3 billion is for the 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Battlefields and Land Acquisition: The FY13 budget proposes $59.4 million for National Park Service federal land acquisition as a part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. This is an increase of $2.5 million over the FY12 enacted level of $56.9 million. In addition, the budget recommends the American Battlefield Protection Program be funded at FY12’s enacted level of $8.9 million, enabling the program to continue acquiring and protecting battlefields from the Civil War, Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The budget includes $5 million to acquire Civil War Battlefield sites. Additionally, the FY13 budget proposes level funding, $3 million, for the preservation of Japanese confinement sites.

Public Lands and Bureau of Land Management

Bureau of Land Management Cultural Resources Account: The FY13 budget proposes $17.3 million for the BLM Cultural Resources account. This is $1.2 million more than the FY12 enacted level. A $1.2 million program increase is significantly less than the Administration's FY12 proposal of more than a $9 million increase. This account provides for the management of over 263,000 documented cultural properties and an estimated 4.5 million more properties. Only 8 percent, however, of Bureau of Land Management land is surveyed.

Bureau of Land Management National Landscape Conservation System: The President’s FY13 budget recommends $69.5 million for the National Landscape Conservation System, a $4.6 million increase over the FY12 enacted to protect some of the most spectacular scenic, historic, cultural, and natural sites in the nation.

Transportation and Historic Resources: The Administration’s FY13 budget proposal includes a $476 billion six-year reauthorization bill that would reform the way federal transportation dollars are spent. We expect as a part of this proposal the current Transportation Enhancements program that provides enormous federal support for historic preservation projects would be reorganized under a new “Livability Program,” which is proposed to receive funding of $4 billion in 2013 and $27 billion over the next six years. It is uncertain if all categories of the current Transportation Enhancements program would be included.

For more information on these and other important preservation programs, please see the Green Budget. This joint effort of the conservation and preservation communities provides a reference guide of background and expertise on Federal programs that are funded through the annual Budget and Appropriations cycle.