The Historic Homeowner — Federal Laws of Interest
On the federal level, the subject of historic preservation is governed by numerous laws, including the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Historic Sites Act of 1935, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, to name a few. The United States Constitution contains important safeguards as well. Primarily, however, the subject is governed by three laws: the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Environmental Policy Act, and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act.
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA)
Of primary importance is the NHPA. In enacting the NHPA, Congress established the federal policy on preservation issues. The law provides for a national preservation program, the identification of historic resources, and procedures for the protection of historic resources. Furthermore, the law specifically provides for the creation of state historic preservation offices. Lastly, the NPHA provides for the Historic Preservation Fund.
In accordance with the NHPA, federal agencies must consider the effects of their actions on historic resources before funding, licensing, or otherwise proceeding with projects that may affect historic resources listed in, or eligible for listing in, the National Register of Historic Places.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
In enacting the NEPA, Congress provided a regulatory schematic with regard to natural resources, as well as cultural resources. Properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places are cultural resources within the purview of the NEPA. The NEPA requires the federal government to use all practical means to assure for all Americans the preservation of important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our natural heritage. Furthermore, the NEPA requires the federal government to maintain, wherever possible, an environment that supports diversity and variety of individual choice.
Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act
In Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, Congress prohibited federal approval or funding of transportation projects that require the use of any historic site, unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the project, and only if the project includes all possible planning to minimize the harm to the project.
For more information of interest to historic homeowners on historic preservation and related issues, contact your local historic preservation resource or:
The National Trust for Historic Preservation
1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone: (800) 944-6847
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.