Historic Preservation Fund - Brief Overview

The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) helps State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices to recognize, save, and protect historic places in communities all over the United States.

The resources provided by the HPF have been used to rescue and rehabilitate significant historic sites, revitalize communities and create opportunities for economic growth. Preservation of these sites and objects strengthens local economies by encouraging tourism and creating jobs, and guarantees that future generations can learn from past generations accomplishments and tragic mistakes. Reviews of federal projectssurveying and inventorying America’s historic resources, and the successful administration of key programs such the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Tax Credit Program are the main tools for historic preservation. The State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices have the primary responsibility for administering these and other preservation programs and because of this they are also the primary recipients of HPF funding.

Historic Preservation Fund - History & Additional Background

The HPF does not use tax-payer dollars – The unique legislation creating the HPF was signed into law on September 28, 1976 providing for a relatively small portion of the royalties that energy companies pay for the right to drill for oil and natural gas on the federally owned Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to be used to partner with states (and later, tribes) to preserve the places that tell America’s story. As a federal-state partnership, states are required to match HPF funds a minimum of 40%.

The HPF must be periodically reauthorized by Congress and it is subject to the annual appropriations process. In December of 2016, Congress reauthorized the HPF for seven years. The chart below shows the HPF amount appropriated by Congress since its inception in 1976.

As the chart indicates, funding for the HPF rose steadily in the first few years but then decreased drastically starting in 1980. The HPF experienced incremental increases through the 1990’s and then more than doubled in funding from $40.8 million in 1998 to $81.2 million in 1999 and continued to increase steadily for the next few years. The bulk of this dramatic increase was the result of $35 million allocated for the creation of the Save America’s Treasures Program, $10 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and small increases for SHPOs and THPOs. Funding for Save America’s Treasures was eliminated in 2011, however $5 million was provided again in 2017.

The HPF is not used for acquisition –  The HPF provides state and local entities with the resources they need to enable both public and private preservation efforts. Since 1976 the HPF has facilitated nearly 90,000 listings on the National Register, the survey of millions of acres for cultural resources, and $117 billion in private investment through the Historic Tax Credit – which has enabled the rehabilitation of more than 41,000 historic buildings and created 2.4 million local jobs.  It has also helped states and tribes to bring the voices of citizens to federal decision making through the Section 106 process.

The Historic Preservation Fund - Today

For fiscal year 2017, Congress provided a total of $80.9 million from the HPF. Of this amount, $47.925 million was awarded to State Historic Preservation Officers and $10.485 million for Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. Congress also provided $500,000 for projects that will increase diversity in the National Register of Historic Places and in the National Historic Landmarks programs, $13 million for sites associated with the struggle for Civil Rights, $5 million for Save America’s Treasures and $4 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.