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Historic Preservation Fund - Brief Overview

In communities throughout America, the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) has helped to recognize, save, and protect America’s historic places. Legislation creating the HPF was signed into law on September 28, 1976. The law provides 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 preserve the places that tell America’s story. The HPF has been used to help preserve and protect iconic sites and objects as diverse as Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts, to the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to the main street of Deadwood, South Dakota.

The resources provided by the HPF have rescued and rehabilitated significant historic sites, revitalized communities and created 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.

In order for the HPF to continue, Congress must reauthorize the fund which expires on September 30, 2015.

Historic Preservation Fund - History & Additional Background

With the creation of the HPF in 1976, Congress made a commitment to annually deposit $150 million of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil lease revenues into an account intended to aid in the preservation and protection our nation’s irreplaceable heritage. However, in order to use the funds, Congress must appropriate them. During the last 40 years, lawmakers have regularly failed to provide the full $150 million authorized under the law and instead have chosen to spend nearly $3.5 billion that was intended for historic preservation elsewhere.

The chart below shows the HPF amount appropriated by Congress through the annual appropriations process since its inception in 1976.

HPF Approps History Graph

As the chart indicates, funding for the HPF rose steadily in the first few years but then decreased drastically starting in 1980. During the 1980’s the Administration requested no funding for the HPF. Thankfully, Congress thought otherwise and continued to fund the program, albeit at a greatly reduced amount. The HPF also 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.

Unfortunately the increases were short-lived as funding for the HPF was back down to the low $70 million’s by 2004. HPF funding again took a nose dive in 2011 when members of Congress supported the President’s proposal to eliminate all funding for our nation’s primary preservation grant programs – Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America.

The Historic Preservation Fund - Today

For fiscal year 2016, Congress provided a total of $65.41 million from the HPF. Of this amount, $46.925 million was awarded to State Historic Preservation Officers and $9.985 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.