Landscapes

America’s Great Outdoors: Analyzing the Report

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Denise Ryan

The next generation of stewards: Youth chinking White Grass Dude Ranch in Grand Teton National Park.

Last summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation joined thousands of Americans and preservation partners at over 50 listening sessions on President Barack Obama’s call to action for the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

On February 16, 2011, the report we have all been waiting for was released -- America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations.

While it should come as no surprise that an initiative called "America’s Great Outdoors" is ultimately focused on natural resources, the report does have several great recommendations for historic preservation.

The first section of the report addresses Americans' disconnection to the outdoors. Beyond general visits to and awareness of our historic sites, this section highlights the need to engage our youth in the conservation and stewardship of our green spaces and historic places. It also addresses the need to create jobs where America’s youth can learn skills and create the next generation of citizen stewards and mentors.

The America’s Great Outdoors report supports battlefield protection through partnerships with historic preservation groups and land trusts to fund acquisition.

The second section of the report, "Conserving and Restoring America’s Great Outdoors," is where we find the heart of the preservation recommendations. Most notably, this section includes recommendations for increased funding for the Historic Preservation Fund, which would provide for “expanded support for state, tribal, and community historic preservation efforts for capital projects, planning, interpretation, community-based preservation and surveying, and technical assistance that support partnerships and community-based preservation activities.”

Unfortunately, the report does not recommend full funding of the Historic Preservation Fund at $150 million, a very modest sum in comparison to the full funding recommendation for the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million.

In the same section, National Heritage Areas are addressed with a recommendation to “establish through legislation clearly-defined standards and processes to support a system of regional- and community-based national heritage areas that promote locally-supported preservation work, promote heritage tourism, and creates jobs.” It also recommends “supporting battlefield protection through partnerships with historic preservation and land trusts to fund acquisition of historically significant, threatened battlefields emphasizing Civil War sites, as a part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial from 2011 to 2015.”

The report recommends the continued protection and interpretation of our historic sites and cultural landscapes on federal lands, which it notes as a challenge because “economic pressures, development, effects of climate change, and other factors mount to threaten the sustainability of heritage resources.”

Sites at Chimney Rock Archaeological Area in Colorado could be given a higher level of protection through the Antiquities Act.

The report also recognizes the importance of the Antiquities Act of 1906 as a tool to “achieve national conservation goals." Through this law, Congress wisely gave the President of the United States the power to reserve “historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest." For instance, in 2000, President Bill Clinton used the Antiquities Act to establish President Lincoln’s Cottage National Monument in Washington, DC, while President George W. Bush used the same law in 2006 to designate the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York. As one of the first national preservation laws, we support the use of the Antiquities Act because there are still many places in America where our important historic and cultural sites deserve a higher level of protection. More specifically, we urge Congress and President Obama to act as quickly as possible to protect sites at Chimney Rock Archaeological Area in Colorado, Casa Grande Monumentin Arizona, and Otero Mesa in New Mexico.

So what's next? How do we go from great ideas to meaningful action? The coordination and implementation of this report's recommendations will be overseen by the Interagency America's Great Outdoors Council, which will publish a detailed plan with assignments and timelines in the next 180 days. 

We invite you to stay tuned as we continue working with the Obama Administration on making the laudable goals of America's Great Outdoors a reality.

Denise Ryan is the National Trust for Historic Preservation's program manager for public lands policy.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Ideas and Inspiration for America's Great Outdoors

Posted on: February 17th, 2011 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

America's great outdoors – case in point. Behold the Painted Hand Pueblo in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Cortez, Colorado.

“Americans are blessed with a vast and varied natural heritage. From mountains to deserts and from sea to shining sea, America's great outdoors have shaped the rugged independence and sense of community that define the American spirit. Today, however, we are losing touch with too many of the places and proud traditions that have helped to make America special.”

Those were the words of President Barack Obama on April 16, 2010, the day he launched his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. His goal was simple -- to start a nationwide brainstorming session about ways to reconnect Americans to the precious land that surrounds them. With sweeping camera shots and a let's-go-adventuring score, this video created by the Obama Administration to promote the effort says it all.

The dialogue that ensued was energetic and inspiring. Throughout the summer, over 51 listening sessions were held around the country to not only discover what outdoor spaces and places are dear to Americans, but to encourage some light-bulb moments around how best to steward those places for future generations.

All in all, over 10,000 people said their part in person (we know that more than a few members and supporters of the National Trust are included in that tally), and over 100,000 comments poured in over the Internet (even more preservationists participated online). 

Today, you can see what that conversation generated — a 173-page report (Americans have a lot to say) chock-full of ideas that was delivered to the President yesterday in a ceremony held at the White House.

While the full report is already available for download, preservationists will also be interested in the historic preservation fact sheet that was prepared as a supplement.

National Trust President Stephanie Meeks has issued the following statement on the report and the recommendation that will be music to many preservationists' ears -- fully fund the Historic Preservation Fund.

"We applaud the Obama Administration's thorough and extensive process that led to the America's Great Outdoors report, including a listening session in Philadelphia that spotlighted historic preservation’s important role in protecting our nation’s heritage. Encouraging Americans, especially young people, to get out and explore the nation’s natural, cultural, and historic resources is a laudable goal. By encouraging more Americans, in particular America’s youth, to become familiar with and learn skills to preserve the historic sites and cultural resources that define who we are as a nation, the America's Great Outdoors report will help to ensure that these important places are preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations."

"The National Trust is especially pleased that the report recommends increased funding for the Historic Preservation Fund -- the nation’s only dedicated source of funding for preservation, including increased funding for State Historic Preservation Officers and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. We are also encouraged that the Administration recognized the importance of our American landscapes, which must be preserved and appreciated within their larger geographic, social, and historical contexts including traditional cultural landscapes and sacred landscapes important to Native peoples. Congress wisely gave the President the power to reserve “historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” through the Antiquities Act and we applaud the appropriate utilization of this critical tool to preserve our irreplaceable shared American heritage." 

Curious to see how President Obama received the recommendations? You can stream yesterday's White House event in its entirety below or read the transcript. Also, stay tuned -- more analysis is coming from our Public Policy Department.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Court Ruling "a Setback" for New Mexico's Mount Taylor

Posted on: February 7th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ti Hays

Mount Taylor

Mount Taylor

On Friday, a state district court in New Mexico dealt a setback to the effort of several Indian tribes and pueblos to gain increased protection and recognition for Mount Taylor - included on our 2009 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Places. The court determined that a state review committee violated state law when it listed the Mount Taylor Traditional Cultural Property (“TCP”) in the State Register of Cultural Properties. In short, the court felt that the TCP, which includes Mount Taylor’s summit, slopes and principal mesas (several hundred square miles, all told), was simply too big, and could not “reasonably be inspected and maintained” by the committee, as required by state law.

The court did, however, reject claims by the plaintiffs—a coalition that includes mining companies, ranch owners and a state land grant community—that the listing violated the state constitution’s Establishment Clause and “Criteria Consideration A” of the National Park Service’s regulations. Those authorities generally prohibit state agencies from overly endorsing or favoring a particular religious belief or practice in their decision making. The court found no such flaw with the committee’s decision, however, since it furthered a variety of secular goals, as pointed out in an amicus brief filed last September by the National Trust and several advocacy groups. “Although sacred in the traditions of the nominating tribes,” the court wrote, “Mt. Taylor has thousands of areas important to our state’s history and national heritage, and to the nominating tribes, besides being of religious significance, the property listed is a legitimate part of their respective histories and cultures.”

It is unclear, at this point, whether the committee or Pueblo of Acoma, which intervened in the case, will appeal the decision. However, even if the decision stands, the Mount Taylor TCP will remain eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, as determined by the U.S. Forest Service in 2008. This means that, in spite of Friday’s ruling, the tribes will still be consulted over federal projects on the mountain that may affect the TCP, including most, if not all, of the large-scale mining proposals.

Ti Hays is the public lands counsel for the Law Department of the Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Federal Court Decision Upholds Protection of Cultural Resources in Montana

Posted on: January 21st, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ti Hays

Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine site. (Photo: The Wilderness Society)

Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine site. (Photo: The Wilderness Society)

Yesterday, a federal district court upheld a U.S. Forest Service travel plan for Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine. This is a good decision for historic preservation and one that the National Trust supported in an amicus brief filed last summer. In the travel plan, the Forest Service closed most of Badger-Two to motorized vehicles in part to protect the area’s cultural and religious values. Badger-Two is highly significant to the Blackfeet Tribe. So much so that the National Park Service has formally determined that roughly 93,000 of the area’s 130,000 acres are eligible for listing in the National Register as a “traditional cultural district.”

In its decision, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that the Forest Service had violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. This clause generally forbids federal agencies from giving undue preference to a particular religious belief or practice in their decision making. The court, however, found no such deficiency in the Forest Service’s travel plan, since it furthered “a host of secular purposes, including benefits to air quality, water quality, soil quality, wildlife habitat, and fish habitat.” And, in light of those secular purposes, the court determined that the plan has neither the “principal” nor “primary” effect of advancing the tribe’s religious beliefs. Finally, since the Forest Service’s dealing with the area is limited to “administrative enforcement of the Travel Plan.” the court found no impermissible “entanglement” between the agency and the Blackfeet’s religious practices.

This case is merely the latest in a string of cases upholding federal protections for areas that possess cultural and religious value to Native Americans. The National Trust has participated in many of those cases and has consistently supported the federal government’s authority to protect places like Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark and Utah’s Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Additionally, the Badger-Two decision clearly supports the arguments we recently made in an amicus brief in the Mount Taylor case. That case involves an Establishment Clause claim that is virtually identical to the one rejected yesterday by the Badger-Two court.


Ti Hays is the public lands counsel for the Law Department of the Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Prehistoric Sites in Tonto National Forest Evaluated

Posted on: December 8th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Andy Laurenzi

Recent looter’s pit at a site on the Tonto National Forest.

This summer, archaeologists Saul Hedquist and Leigh Anne Ellison were hired by the Center for Desert Archaeology to conduct site damage and condition assessments of ninety-six prehistoric sites in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The project received funding support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other environmental partners and was done in cooperation with the forest. Our goal was to create a knowledge base that would enable the funding partners to more effectively participate in upcoming travel management and forest planning discussions.

Most of the assessed sites are significant habitation sites dating between A.D. 600 and 1400. These sites include prominent architectural features such as roomblocks and platform mounds. As such, most are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are register-eligible. Likewise, the Tonto National Forest designates many of them as Priority Heritage Assets. Unfortunately, their size and visibility also make these sites more attractive to human visitors—and, by extension, more vulnerable to vandalism and damage from recreational uses.

Leigh Anne Ellison and Saul Hedquist conducted site assessments on the Tonto National Forest.

Adverse effects related to human activity were evident at 90% of the assessed sites. Although most of the observed damage was decades old, more recent damage—within the past five years—was encountered at 15 sites. Fourteen of those are located within 500 meters of a Forest Service (FS) road. In general, sites located further from FS roads were found in better condition than those nearer to roads.

Although the factors influencing site damage and overall condition are complex and particular to each site, our data indicats that when a road open to motorized vehicle use is near a site, it can facilitate damage in two ways. First, it increases the likelihood that a vehicle traveling off-road will encounter a site and impact it (e.g., tire damage). Second, looters gain easier and faster access to a site.

These findings are consistent with recent studies on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Our findings also suggest that public land managers should strongly consider closing roads to motorized use if those roads provide easy access to these types of cultural resources.

Interestingly, prominent signage indicating penalties for violating the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) may be helpful. ARPA signs were observed at 14 sites, most of which were located near regularly used FS roads. Only one signed site had sustained recent damage. Monitoring of road-accessible sites by site stewards should constitute another effective measure—indeed, we already know the important role these dedicated volunteers play in managing cultural resources on public lands.

Andy Laurenzi is a field representative for the Center for Desert Archaeology in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.