Landscapes

Emancipation National Monument: Historic Fort Monroe at Hampton Roads, Virginia

Posted on: June 10th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Rob Nieweg

Aerial view of Fort Monroe. (Photo: Fort Monroe Authority)

Aerial view of Fort Monroe. (Photo: Fort Monroe Authority)

On June 8th, in a letter to the White House, National Trust for Historic Preservation president Stephanie Meeks asked President Obama to exercise his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate historic Fort Monroe as a National Monument, which would make the 565-acre fortress an official part of the National Park system.

Fort Monroe is one of the nation’s most important landmarks of US military and African American heritage.  One hundred fifty years ago, three enslaved men, Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend, escaped the Confederate Army and fled by boat to Virginia’s Fort Monroe. There, the Union Army commander seized these men as “contraband” of war, an unusual legal maneuver that provided refuge and relative freedom for the three men, and in turn, heralded the beginning of the end of slavery in America.  Over the course of the Civil War, more than 500,000 African American women, children, and men would follow in the footsteps of Mallory, Baker, and Townsend, leading to one of the Civil War’s most extraordinary—and overlooked—chapters.  It is imperative that we commemorate the hard struggles and unprecedented triumphs of these self-emancipators, and permanently preserve the nationally important historic site where these momentous events took place.

Importantly, June 8th also is the 105th anniversary of the enactment of the Antiquities Act, which presidents have used to enshrine and protect some of America’s most important and beloved historic places, from President Lincoln’s Cottage to the Statue of Liberty to Chaco Canyon.  A creative partnership of the National Park Service, Fort Monroe Authority, and Virginia Department of Historic Resources can ensure that future generations of Americans will learn from, and be inspired by, this vital piece of American history.  Creation of a new National Monument at Fort Monroe is supported by Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell, U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, Congressmen Bobby Scott, Randy Forbes, Scott Rigell, and Rob Wittman as well as the non-profit preservation and conservation communities.

For further information on “Contraband” Heritage please see our earlier post, The Contraband of America and the Road to Freedom.

Rob Nieweg is the director & regional attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Field Office.

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.

Court Battle Threatens Historic Green Mountain Lookout

Posted on: May 27th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The historic Green Mountain fire lookout. (Photo: Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

The Green Mountain fire lookout. (Photo: Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

The U.S. Forest Service has been sued in federal district court in Seattle for preserving the historic Green Mountain Lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.  Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 for fire detection, the U.S. Army also used this iconic wood frame Lookout to spot enemy aircraft during World War II.  In 1988, in recognition of both its architecture and its historical associations, the Lookout was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1984, 51 years after the Lookout was built, the Glacier Peak Wilderness was expanded to include it.

Since the Lookout is on a remote mountain peak, and subject to extreme weather conditions, maintenance was difficult, and the condition of the Lookout suffered. Dedicated volunteers repaired the lookout to the best of their ability, assisted in 1999 by a $50,000 matching grant from Save America’s Treasures. Eventually, however, the foundation became unstable, and major repair was needed. The Forest Service relied on an extraordinary outpouring of public support, including thousands of hours of volunteer labor, to  painstakingly dismantle the historic structure and moved it offsite for repair. With the approval of the State Historic Preservation Office, the Green Mountain lookout was reconstructed in 2010 using a majority of original materials that were lovingly refurbished and rebuilt by the volunteers.

A historic shot of the Green Mountain Lookout. (Photo: Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

A historic shot of the Green Mountain Lookout. (Photo: Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

Wilderness Watch, a non-profit organization that monitors federal management activities in designated wilderness areas, viewed the repair work as illegal. In a blog post the group called the action an “egregious breach of wilderness ethics and law” and described the Forest Service action as “arrogan[t].” In late 2010, the group sued the U.S. Forest Service seeking a permanent injunction that would require the agency to remove the historic lookout entirely from the wilderness area. Wilderness Watch has taken the extreme position that all man-made structures should be removed from wilderness areas, regardless of their historic status.

The National Trust views the draconian remedy of removing the Green Mountain Lookout as one that would directly contradict the Forest Service’s obligations for the stewardship of historic resources under the National Historic Preservation Act. The Department of Justice, representing the Forest Service, authored an eloquent brief highlighting the stewardship responsibilities of the Forest Service for historic sites and structures in wilderness throughout the country, spanning more than 10,000 years of human history. The Forest Service made a compelling argument that the Wilderness Act and the National Historic Preservation Act are not mutually exclusive, and can indeed coexist as a set of principles that govern the agency’s management and stewardship of its historic properties.

The National Trust recently weighed in to support the Forest Service with an amicus curiae brief, together with a coalition including the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the Darrington Historical Society, and the Forest Fire Lookout Association. In a motion requesting the court’s permission to file the amicus brief, the coalition expressed the concern that Wilderness Watch’s extreme position threatens protections for a range of other historic resources that predate wilderness designation, including Native American shrines and rock shelters, graveyards, lighthouses, pioneer cabins, as well as other fire lookouts.

On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation announced that the Green Mountain Lookout was named to the state’s “Most Endangered Historic Properties” list. Stay tuned, as the battle to protect this unusual historic structure continues.

Brian Turner is the regional attorney for the Western Office of 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.

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.

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.