Good News for CRM: Details on FY20 Interior Appropriations

05/22/2019 1:46 PM | Deleted user

The House Appropriations Committee has released the report for the FY20 Interior Appropriations Bill! It’s very good news for the CRM industry, but there is one particular disappointment.

First the Good:

  • The Historic Preservation Fund is funded at $121.66 million, which includes an increase of $4 million for SHPOs and $2 million for THPOS. $16 million is included for Save America’s Treasures, and there is $23.25 million (an increase of $8 million) for competitive grants to document, interpret, and preserve under-represented historic sites.
  • The bill includes some remarkable language asking for the National Register proposed rule to be withdrawn. The report states: “Proposed Rulemaking.—The Committee is concerned with the Service’s proposal to modify long-standing procedures to nominate properties to the National Register. It remains unclear to the Committee what problems the Service is trying to solve by its proposal. The Committee does not believe that the proposed changes are required by the minor amendments that Congress made to the National Historic Preservation Act in 2016. Further, the Committee is troubled that the Service failed to consult with other federal land management agencies, state and tribal historic preservation officers, and other key stakeholders during the proposal’s development or conduct required consultation. The Committee urges the Service to withdraw the proposed rule and consult with key stakeholders on the underlying issues the Service is trying to resolve. Such stakeholders should include other federal land management agencies, including the Department of Defense, state and tribal historic preservation officers, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Committee also expects the United States to enter into meaningful government-to-government consultation with affected tribes prior to finalizing any changes to the regulation.”
  • NEA and NEH are both funded at $167.5 million and the report notes that “The Committee recognizes the broad bipartisan support for the NEA and its work to promote access to the arts in every community across America. Each year, every district receives NEA funding to support art programs that can enhance economic development, create jobs, and expand arts learning.” The report particularly references NEH programs that advance civil discourse on challenging issues, NEH programs aimed at supporting veterans and increasing awareness of their experiences, NEH cultural and linguistic preservation programs related to Tribal and Alaska/Hawaiian native groups, and State humanities councils.
  • NPS is to receive a variety of funding increases to address deferred maintenance and cuts over the years, which includes a $50 million increase for workforce rebuilding (restoration of 500 positions) and a $20 million grant to the Centennial Challenge matching grant program. The report has some language in it about how the Committee is frustrated because the funding is separated between facility operations and facility maintenance, but individual parks have been switching between those accounts and are therefore still deferring maintenance. The Committee also notes that: “The Committee was deeply troubled by the decision by senior officials at the Department of the Interior to change longstanding policy during the fiscal year 2019 partial government shutdown and use fee revenues to provide services for certain national parks and other public lands. This decision contributed to national parks being kept open to the public during the shutdown without sufficient staffing to adequately protect public safety or natural and cultural resources.”
  • NPS gets an overall budget bump including $132.9 million for cultural resource stewardship, an increase of almost $10.8 million. That includes $1 million towards the national networks (which is where the burial grounds network would be if it passes). Other grants like NAGPRA, Japanese Confinement Site grants, native Art and Culture grants, which were proposed to be eliminated in the administration’s budget are funded slightly above the enacted level.
  • It includes a $3 million increase for BLM’s cultural resources management account (for a total of $20.303 million) and explicitly directs that half of that go toward the National Cultural Resources Information Management System! The bill is strongly supportive of digitization and planning efforts: “The Committee directs that half of the additional cultural resources funding be allocated toward updating the predictive modeling and data analysis capabilities of the National Cultural Resources Information Management System, which allows for better siting and planning decisions leading to more efficient project implementation.” The cultural resources management account has not seen an increase in several years, and they have done as we requested and directly linked the new allocation to NCRIMS!
  • It also includes our request to increase the National Conservation Lands Account. It provides $45.112 million (up $5.293 million from FY19). The report states, “The Committee believes a modest increase in this program will allow for greater inventory and monitoring of cultural resources and encourages the Bureau to increase its cultural resources staff.”
  • The report affirms Congress’s intent not to allow leases within 10 miles of Chaco Canyon: “Greater Chaco Cultural Landscape.—The Committee recognizes that the Bureau of Land Management has delayed scheduled lease sales in areas within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park on three occasions since March 2018. The Committee is also aware of the recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals vacating the Bureau of Land Management environmental analysis for oil and gas leasing in the area. The Greater Chaco cultural landscape has inestimable value for Native people and for the American public. The Committee directs the Bureau to refrain from leasing or proposing new leases within a 10-mile radius of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Committee further directs the Bureau to prioritize planning updates for the region, increase cultural resources inventories in cooperation with the State of New Mexico and tribes to ensure well-informed land management decisions, and engage in meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes, including conducting ethnographic studies outside of the 10-mile radius.”

The Bad:

  • The Historic Preservation Fund appropriation doesn’t include proposed competitive grants for cultural resources digitization. This issue was championed by ACRA and other interested organizations, and our team will be working to find out more about the reasons for its exclusion.

Please feel free to review the report here and tell us if you have any other thoughts or concerns.

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