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  • 11/24/2020 11:57 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    The political world has a parallel universe feel to it these days. In one universe, Joe Biden is filling out his White House staff and planning his policy priorities for once he takes the oath of office. In the other universe, President Trump and his administration are contesting the election results and charging towards a second term.

    In reality, President Trump’s paths for securing a second term have increasingly dwindled, as all 50 states and the District of Columbia prepare to certify the results of the election. On December 14, electors will meet in state capitols to cast their votes based on the popular vote winner of their state. Those votes will be formally counted at a joint session of Congress on January 6. Once a candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, the count is “deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President.” Two weeks later, the winning candidate is sworn in. Barring some unprecedented occurrence, that will be former Vice President Joe Biden.

    So what awaits the 46th President when he enters the Oval Office? His to-do list is long: dealing with a global pandemic, a weakened economy, tensions with foreign adversaries, the impacts of climate change, racial strife and much more. But his first task is nominating Cabinet members and hundreds of political appointees that will steer the alphabet soup of federal agencies for the next four years.

    Of most interest to ACRA members is Biden’s choice for Secretary of the Interior. The current thinking is that outgoing New Mexico Senator Tom Udall is the front-runner for the post, but Congressional Democrats are making a concerted push for one of their own, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American Cabinet member in U.S. history. Both Udall and Haaland have been proponents of cultural resource management and protection during their time in Congress.

    Beyond the Interior Secretary, an incoming President Biden will need to name heads of subagencies as well. Of particular interest to conservation advocates is the Bureau of Land Management, which lost nearly 70 percent of its D.C. staff during the Trump administration when its headquarters was moved to Colorado. As Ken Rait of the Pew Charitable Trusts, told The Hill newspaper, the outgoing administration “pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall, and someone needs to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” According to The Hill, front-runners for the head of BLM include Steve Ellis, a veteran of the Obama-era BLM, who backers think could bring stability to the agency.

    Once staff are in place, high on President-elect Biden’s to-do list is reversing numerous Trump administration executive orders and rules. It is not uncommon for new presidents to roll back executive actions their predecessor made; President Trump reversed many of former President Obama’s rules, for example. But the increasing use of executive orders and agency rulemaking to effect policy changes in recent years – a function of a gridlocked Congress which has frustrated many a president’s agenda – means that incoming administrations can make big changes quickly.

    One Trump administration rule that is sure to be in the Biden team’s sights is the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) reform of the National Environmental Policy Act, issued last summer. The rule dramatically reduces the scope of NEPA and decreases stakeholder input and public participation, all of which ACRA believes threatens the protection of our environmental and cultural resources. Because the changes were issued as a regulatory rule and not an executive order, a President Biden could not cancel them with a stroke of his pen on January 20; instead, a new rule will need to go through the regulatory process. That said, a Biden administration can get a head start on nullifying the NEPA rules by directing agencies not to update their internal guidelines based on the Trump rule.

    That approach will not necessarily work with the U.S. Forest Service, however, which last week issued a final rule amending its NEPA regulations that environmental advocates say weakens requirements for the Forest Service to study the potential environmental harm of new development and publicly share scientific analysis of proposed changes. ACRA expects that to be a major topic of interest for the incoming administration.

    Beyond personnel and rules changes, the incoming Biden administration hopes to secure Congressional approval for a large-scale infrastructure bill; during the campaign, Biden promised to push for more than $7 trillion to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, fight climate change and create jobs. Whether he will succeed depends in part on the January 5 special election in Georgia, where the state’s two GOP Senators face stiff challenges from Democratic candidates. If both Democrats win, the Senate will be tied 50-50, with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. If either Republican wins, the GOP keeps control, and Biden’s big plans will need to be scaled back. Even if Democrats gain functional control of the Senate, securing enough votes for a major infrastructure bill will not be easy: conservatives worry about the price tag, while progressives believe Biden’s plans do not go far enough in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    No matter the prospects for a big infrastructure bill, it’s clear that Congressional Democrats will push these themes during the next Congress. Top Democratic staff on the House Natural Resources Committee shared with ACRA last week that climate change, diversity and equity, and job creation will be the three big prisms through which the Committee will address all policies ideas that come before it.

    All three of these issues have resonance within the CRM industry, and how Congress chooses to address them will impact the sector for years to come. Helping the economy recover, increasing diversity in the industry, and protecting our cultural heritage from environmental and climate threats are top priorities, no matter which party won the election.

  • 11/20/2020 2:44 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    So You Think You Need a PA...

    December 10, 2020 | 2:00 - 3:30 PM (EST) | Register Now

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is back for ACRA's final webinar of the year! Join us on December 10 at 2:00 pm EST for So You Think You Need a PA....

    Many federal land management units – including bases, campuses, buildings, forests, and parks – benefit from Section 106 Programmatic Agreements that establish efficiencies for routine projects and maintenance, repair, and operations activities. In this webinar, Program Analysts Katharine Kerr and Chris Daniel will identify the pros and cons of pursuing such a PA and provide practical advice to program managers on how to develop one.

    Space is limited, so register now to reserve your spot. As a reminder, ACRA members benefit from a firm-wide registration fee - once one person from a member firm registers, others can register for free. Contact us for information on subsequent registrations.

    Register Now

  • 11/19/2020 1:59 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Forest Service has published its final rule regarding regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). From the summary published in the Federal Register:

    The amendments in the final rule will increase efficiency in the Agency's environmental analysis and decision-making while meeting NEPA's requirements and fully honoring the Agency's environmental stewardship responsibilities. The final rule adds a Determination of NEPA Adequacy provision, which outlines a process for determining whether a previously completed Forest Service NEPA analysis can satisfy NEPA's requirements for a subsequently proposed action. The final rule also establishes six new CEs, consolidates two existing CEs into one, and expands two existing CEs. The six new CEs include activities related to recreation special uses, administrative sites, recreation sites, and restoration and resilience projects, along with two CEs for certain road management projects. Two existing CEs are consolidated into one covering clerical modification or reauthorization of existing special uses. The two expanded CEs cover (1) approval, modification, or continuation of special use authorizations on up to 20 acres of NFS lands and (2) decommissioning of both unauthorized roads and trails and National Forest System roads and trails. These CEs are described in greater detail in the comment responses below and in the document titled, “Supporting Statement: Categorical Exclusions For Certain Special Uses, Infrastructure, and Restoration Projects,” available at https://www.fs.fed.us/​emc/​nepa/​revisions/​index.shtml.

    You can view the full rule here. ACRA is analyzing the rule and will update this post with additional information on how CRM is affected.

  • 11/18/2020 4:08 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Thank you to those of you that have already completed the survey on individual experiences CRM practitioners have had concerning sexual harassment and gender equity. If you have not had a chance to complete the survey yet, time is running out - the survey closes in less than 2 weeks.

    We would be grateful if you would take the time to share your experiences with us. Your answers will help ACRA inform the creation of new initiatives as a part of our Health & Safety program. It should take approximately 20 minutes.

    The survey is completely anonymous and does not ask any questions that would compromise your identity. You may stop the survey at any time, and you may choose to answer only some of the questions. ACRA’s Executive Director is the only one with administrative access to the survey results. 

    The more data we collect, the better informed our programs will be. The deadline to complete the survey is Tuesday, December 1. Thank you in advance for your participation. If you have already completed the survey, please take a moment to share the survey with colleagues in your network.

    Share Your Experience Now

  • 11/18/2020 10:18 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    As we head into the holiday season, we wanted to remind you that all employees of ACRA member firms can get fantastic discounts on all the gifts they need during the holiday season - just by being an ACRA member!

    The ACRA Savings Marketplace can save you money on gifts and more.

    There are currently over 470 different brands offering deals on the Marketplace, including some of the brands you use often. Brands include:

    • Adidas
    • Amazon
    • Ace Hardware
    • Banana Republic
    • Brooks Brothers
    • Canon
    • Chewy.com
    • Columbia
    • Costco
    • Dell
    • Disney (including Disney+)
    • Fabletics
    • Graco
    • HP
    • Harry & David
    • Home Depot
    • Honest Company
    • Kay Jewelers
    • Kohl's
    • Lenovo
    • New Balance
    • Nike
    • Oakley
    • Otterbox
    • Rosetta Stone
    • Samsung
    • Target
    • T-Mobile
    • Ulta
    • Verizon

    The deals change on a weekly basis, so keep coming back to the marketplace for more ways to save!

    This member benefit doesn’t just help those in leadership positions save money – ANYONE who works at an ACRA member firm can use the Savings Marketplace, including non-CRM employees. Large companies often have benefits like this for their employees, but as many CRM firms are small businesses, this type of program in not financially feasible to offer.

    Make sure you employees and coworkers are aware of their option for saving on the holiday shopping - share the ACRA Savings Marketplace now!

  • 11/16/2020 5:12 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    If you missed last week's webinar on aerial archaeology, it is now available on demand for you to watch on your own schedule!

    Today, with a light aircraft, high resolution cameras, and a thorough survey protocol, huge landscapes can be covered in a matter of hours with photographs capturing both quantitative data and relevant qualitative information about context, scale and character. The qualitative aspects of narrative photography not only add context to important data at the site, but in an increasingly visual culture, artistic and narrative photography provides a hook to draw people into the story of important landscape research.

    The operational, technological, regulatory, and economic differences between aerial platforms and software available to process imagery are changing rapidly and deserve careful attention when considering project design for survey and imaging of project sites. Aerial Archaeology, Then and Now gives attendees specific knowledge of the state of aerial imaging technology today and detailed options for its deployment in the service of archaeological research/documentation/communications.

    The webinar addresses project design and provider selection, and will also discuss costs, regulatory issues, resolution at different altitudes and speeds, and general pros and cons of the technology.

    As with the live session, this webinar is available to ACRA members at a discounted price. Members can get the discount code to access the presentation here.

    Watch Aerial Archaeology, Then and Now

  • 11/13/2020 2:20 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    We wanted to quickly remind you that if you have a great idea for a webinar for CRM professionals, we want to hear it! The call for 2021 ACRA webinar sessions closes in one week.

    ACRA webinars cover a range of topics, from the technical aspects of cultural resource management to expanding general business skills and knowledge. Timely topics, such as sessions addressing diversity & inclusion or improving technology use during the pandemic, are particularly encouraged.

    Our webinar series also offers the opportunity to make a little extra money through our honorarium and revenue sharing program. You can view the detailed requirements in the Request for Proposal here. Proposals are due on November 20, 2020.

    Get paid for sharing your expertise - share your ideas with us by November 20!

  • 11/10/2020 5:16 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Arizona Preservation Foundation is conducting a webinar on Wednesday, November 18 addressing diversity in the state's archaeology as a part of their Arizona Preservation webinar series. Examining the Role of Diversity and Inclusion in Arizona Archaeology will be held at 1:00 pm Arizona time (3:00 pm Eastern). 

    From the Arizona Preservation Foundation:

    This Arizona Preservation in Place webinar confronts the issues of bias, cultural justice, objectivity, race, and racism in Arizona archaeology today. The session will feature an introduction by William White on archaeology’s whiteness problem followed by a question-focused discussion with a diverse sample of Arizona’s professional Native, Black, Hispanic, and White archaeologists.

    The goal of the session is to bring awareness to different Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) perspectives, to the role of objectivity in archaeology, to the profession’s traditional bias towards a white Euroamerican perspective, to how the lack of diversity in the field does and does not affect what gets preserved or researched, and the effects that history and archaeology are interpreted in Arizona with the hope of building trust.

    Register for the webinar and view more information here

  • 11/09/2020 12:55 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a new policy on October 15: Building Code and Floodplain Management Administration and Enforcement (#204-079-01). Included in the final policy were several changes regarding historic properties suggested by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) which aim to help local communities fund historic preservation-related responses in the months following a disaster.

    The policy addresses how FEMA’s Public Assistance Program will assist communities to administer and enforce state and locally adopted building codes and floodplain management ordinances during the 180 days after the date of a major disaster declaration. Specifically cited as activities eligible for FEMA funding assistance are:

    • Substantial Damage Determinations: “Determine which damaged structures have been designated as historic or that may be eligible for such designation.”
    • Building Code Administration: “Provide training and information to staff, contractors, and the public on unique considerations for repair of disaster-damaged buildings that are historic.”
    • Floodplain Management Ordinance Administration and Enforcement: “Provide training and information to staff, contractors, and the public on unique considerations for repair of disaster-damaged buildings that are historic.”

    You can view the policy in full here.

    Additionally, last week the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) issued a new report, A Resilient Future for Coastal Communities: Federal Policy Recommendations from Solutions in Practice. The EESI is a non-profit organization is a non-profit that provides research and policy recommendations to policymakers, including members of Congress, on climate change, energy, and environmental challenges.

    Cultural heritage is one of the six themes addressed in the report, with others including community at the forefront, disaster policy, land use and development, climate adaptation and resilience data, and financing adaptation and resilience. Starting on page 25, Section 3 addresses three cultural heritage policy recommendations:

    • Cultural heritage considerations should be integrated into federal requests for proposals for climate adaptation and resilience work.
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Global Change research program should include research on cultural heritage in the National Climate Assessment.
    • Cultural heritage considerations should be integrated into federal requests for proposals for climate adaptation and resilience work.

    Summaries of each policy recommendation, including examples, is available in full report is available here

  • 11/09/2020 11:56 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    A deeply divided electorate has spoken, but it’s not entirely clear what they were trying to say. That’s the biggest outcome from Tuesday’s election.

    As of this writing, former Vice President Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 election, putting him on track to become the nation’s 46th President in January. It is important to note that President Trump has not conceded the race, and the results will not be official until each state certifies the winner prior to Dec. 14, when the electors meet in every state capitol. But Biden’s lead in states totaling more than 270 electoral votes appears to be large enough to withstand any recounts or other challenges.

    The news was not all good for Democrats. Their hopes of re-taking the Senate have all but evaporated as numerous vulnerable Republican incumbents kept their seats. A runoff in Georgia for both seats in early January could determine which party controls the upper chamber, but the best Democrats can get is a 50-50 split. In the House, Republicans managed to knock off several Democratic incumbents, shrinking Speaker Pelosi’s majority by approximately six seats. The most likely outcome for 2021 is divided government, with Democrats controlling the White House and the House and the GOP still in charge of the Senate.

    The election was even better for Republicans at the state level, where Democrats’ hopes of winning majorities in several state legislatures were dashed. This matters for more than just the implications for state policymaking: following the 2020 census, states will need to redraw their Congressional district maps before the 2022 midterm elections. With Republicans controlling more state legislatures than Democrats, they will be able to draw maps that are more favorable to their party.

    Although it’s too early to assess what the vote meant, we know a few things: first, turnout was the highest it has been since 1900. Coming in the midst of a pandemic, with record numbers of Americans voting by mail, this is a significant achievement.

    Second, for the first time in U.S. history, it appears we will have a female Vice President, as Kamala Harris becomes the first African-American woman and first South Asian American to stand a heartbeat away from the presidency. What’s more, voters elected the first two openly gay African-American men to Congress (both from New York), Delaware elected the country’s first transgender state Senator, and New Mexico elected all women of color to the U.S. House. The halls of power are slowly but surely becoming more diverse.

    Third, the election demonstrated that the Latino population in America is far from monolithic. While the Biden-Harris ticket won Arizona and New Mexico on the strengths of Hispanic votes, the Trump-Pence ticket held onto Florida with a strong showing among Cuban-American voters in Miami, and did better than expected among Latino in the Rio Grande valley, helping the President win Texas.

    And last but not least, the election results suggest that another major realignment of the pollical map is underway. Despite winning the “blue wall” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Biden’s narrow wins there show that the industrial Midwest is no longer safe territory for Democrats. And Biden’s wins in Arizona and Nevada, not to mention his surprise win in Georgia, indicate that the rapid urbanization of the Sun Belt makes it less reliably Republican.

    Change is happening, but the election did not change everything. Even as the votes were being counted, the country tallied its largest single-day COVID-19 infection rates since the start of the pandemic. And despite a fairly strong jobs report last Friday, the economy remains a long way from recovery.

    These facts, along with the likelihood that January will see a Democrat in the White House, probably explain why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced shortly after the polls closed that passing an economic stimulus package would be a top priority for Congress when it reconvenes for a lame duck session next week. Prior to the election, the parties were at odds over the size of the package, with Democrats calling for $2.2 trillion in economic relief and Republicans wanting to keep the package below $1.8 trillion.

    The outcome of the election, particularly the fact that Republicans managed to maintain control of the Senate (for the time being, at least), suggests that the GOP will remain firm in its position. House Democrats will be torn between the desire to enact a package as quickly as possible, even if it’s smaller than they’d like, and the hope that they could hold out for a better deal once Joe Biden takes office.

    The fate of the economic recovery package matters to the CRM industry as much as for anyone else. In recent weeks, ACRA has been talking to numerous Capitol Hill offices urging Congress to put partisanship aside and pass a relief package that helps communities get back on their feet. Of particular importance is relief for small businesses like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Congress passed in the spring, which has helped many CRM firms avoid layoffs. Democrats want to see the package renewed, while Republicans are pushing to make sure that already-authorized funds that have yet to be spend can get out the door. Either way, ACRA’s discussions on the Hill suggest there is some bipartisan consensus that small businesses need help.

    ACRA also is making the case that states and local governments need help. As states face significant budget crunches, vital programs like the State Historic Preservation Offices face possible funding cuts that would slow cultural resource activities. Ironically, such slowdowns would end up costing jobs, which will make the budget crises worse. Federal support is vital for ending this vicious cycle.

    Even if the parties can agree on an economic relief package, the mixed election results mean that gridlock could very well persist into 2021 and beyond. At the very least, the election shows we are a country deeply divided. There are no silver bullets to cure this, but the CRM industry certainly has an important role to play: by preserving and protecting our nation’s history (both the good and not-so-good), cultural resource professionals can help Americans understand our shared heritage, and remind us that our nation is at its best when we come together.

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