• 06/08/2020 10:37 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Coalition for American Heritage, of which ACRA is a founding member, has issued a new action alert for the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that funds repairs at American’s national parks and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress is expected to  vote on the bill this week, so you need to take action NOW!

    Background on the Bill:

    The deteriorating infrastructure at America’s national parks and public lands includes roads, trails, historic structures and artifacts, battlegrounds, and memorials. The Great American Outdoors Act will invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years in deferred maintenance for lands managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. Performing this work will also provide jobs in nearly every state.

    The bill would also provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF. These monies come from offshore oil and gas revenues – not tax dollars. Since 1965, the LWCF has helped preserve historic sites, cultural parks, battlefields, and archaeological sites. Examples of these sites include: Fort Monroe National Monument, Gettysburg National Military Park, Nez Perce National Historical Park, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

    Voicing your support for this bill is easy - simply visit the action alert page and follow the instructions to take action in just minutes. Urge your Members of Congress to support the Great American Outdoors Act now!

    Take Action Now on the
    Great American Outdoors Act


  • 06/05/2020 4:16 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Yesterday President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to waive environmental regulations to speed up infrastructure projects under the auspices of responding to the “economic emergency” presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that the Order does not attempt to create a blanket waiver of environmental regulations, but is limited to directing agencies to use existing emergency authorities to expedite projects.

    Nonetheless, ACRA, along with its partners at the Coalition for American Heritage, has concerns that agencies will invoke the Order to limit public involvement in federal projects, to deprive tribal governments of their rights to consultation, and to limit consideration of impacts to historic properties and cultural resources.

    The Executive Order directs agencies to use emergency authorities they already have under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA), and to review all statutes, regulations, and guidance documents that provide emergency or expedited treatment—which includes the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) regulations at 36 CFR 800.12.

    Our concerns include:

    • Emergency authorities have traditionally only been used to respond to emergency threats to national security and natural disasters. It is unclear whether existing emergency authorities can be invoked to respond to an economic slowdown.
    • The Order does not give an end date or any indication of when the Administration would decide the economic effects of the public health emergency have improved enough to return to the normal course of business.
    • Some emergency authorities, such as those in NEPA, do not require public notice that they are being applied. We are concerned that agencies will apply emergency procedures inappropriately, and we will not learn about it in time to object or litigate.
    • Invoking emergency authorities when not consistent with existing law will increase litigation risk for infrastructure projects and their proponents, creating uncertainty and delays for projects.

    The Order puts considerable pressure on agency heads to expedite projects, requiring that they submit reports in 30 days of how they are using the Order.

    Members of Congress have already expressed their disapproval (see Speaker Pelosi’s statement here and Chairman Grijalva’s statement here). ACRA and its partners in the Coalition will be communicating its concerns to Congress and to the agencies.

    How You Can Help

    Our greatest strength is our network of advocates across the country. Please let us know when you see agencies attempting to invoke this Order on projects on which you work, or even projects you hear about. We need to know how the Order is being applied so that we can formulate the most effective responses.

    As we learn more about the implications of this Executive Order, we will continue to update you and the CRM community on this. Visiting the ACRAsphere is the quickest way to get the most up to date information, as well as following us on both Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • 06/04/2020 4:34 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    UPDATE: The President has now signed this bill into law.

    As of yesterday, June 3, the House and Senate have both passed the

    Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, and the bill is now on the President's desk awaiting signature. 

    The main points of the legislation touch on the loan coverage period, eligible costs, and more flexibility for employee counts. From the Journal of Accountancy:

    • Current PPP borrowers can choose to extend the eight-week period to 24 weeks, or they can keep the original eight-week period. New PPP borrowers will have a 24-week covered period, but the covered period can’t extend beyond Dec. 31, 2020. This flexibility is designed to make it easier for more borrowers to reach full, or almost full, forgiveness.
    • Under the language in the House bill, the payroll expenditure requirement drops to 60% from 75% but is now a cliff, meaning that borrowers must spend at least 60% on payroll or none of the loan will be forgiven. Currently, a borrower is required to reduce the amount eligible for forgiveness if less than 75% of eligible funds are used for payroll costs, but forgiveness isn’t eliminated if the 75% threshold isn’t met. Rep. Chip Roy (Texas), who co-sponsored the bill in the House, said in a House speech that the bill intended the sliding scale to remain in effect at 60%. Senators Marco Rubio and Susan Collins indicated that technical tweaks could be made to the bill to restore the sliding scale.
    • Borrowers can use the 24-week period to restore their workforce levels and wages to the pre-pandemic levels required for full forgiveness. This must be done by Dec. 31, a change from the previous deadline of June 30.
    • The legislation includes two new exceptions allowing borrowers to achieve full PPP loan forgiveness even if they don’t fully restore their workforce. Previous guidance already allowed borrowers to exclude from those calculations employees who turned down good faith offers to be rehired at the same hours and wages as before the pandemic. The new bill allows borrowers to adjust because they could not find qualified employees or were unable to restore business operations to Feb. 15, 2020, levels due to COVID-19 related operating restrictions.
    • New borrowers now have five years to repay the loan instead of two (Ed. note: this is for any funds not forgiven). Existing PPP loans can be extended up to 5 years if the lender and borrower agree. The interest rate remains at 1%.
    • The bill allows businesses that took a PPP loan to also delay payment of their payroll taxes, which was prohibited under the CARES Act.
    Forbes has an extensive article, including background information, on the changes here. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for additional information on this and other relief programs affecting the CRM industry,
  • 06/03/2020 3:52 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Did you miss last week's webinar on CRM health and safety issues in the 21st century? 

    If so, you can now view it on ACRA Webinars on Demand!

    Kimberly Morrell, SH&E Representative for AECOM’s East Coast cultural resources department, guided attendees through making sure their corporate programs are structured to meet today’s expectations. Topics covered include:

    • Adopting measures that mitigate risk; preserve facilities, property, equipment and the natural environment; and protect the safety and health of our people — employees, clients and the end users of our projects;
    • Practicing active safety leadership and training our professionals to design processes and projects in a manner that reduces strategic and localized risks and impacts;
    • Continuously improving and updating systems and procedures to adhere to ever-changing occupational safety, health and environmental laws and licensing requirements across all levels of government; and
    • Tracking safety performance metrics and maintaining a high level of transparency with employees, stakeholders and clients during this process.

    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 for free here.

    Watch the Session NOW

  • 06/02/2020 4:37 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team


    Resolving Disputes in Section 106

     June 11, 2020 | 2:00 - 3:30 PM (EDT) | Register Now

    The Section 106 review process is critical to informing federal infrastructure planning and decision making. Key findings within this review process, including an agency’s findings about the eligibility of historic properties to the National Register and effects to them, can be the subject of disputes among consulting parties.

    Join us on June 11 at 2:00 pm EDT for Resolving Disputes in Section 106, an advanced webinar developed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). In this session for advanced Section 106 practitioners, attendees will explore the diagnosis and strategies for resolving such disputes with Blythe Semmer, Senior Program Analyst, and Jaime Loichinger, Assistant Director for Permitting, Licensing, and Assistance in the Office of Federal Agency Programs.

    ACRA member firms receive a discounted rate for this webinar. Additionally, member firms enjoy a firm-wide registration fee during the COVID-19 pandemic - contact us for details on getting firm employees access.

    Register now to reserve your spot!

    Register for Resolving
    Disputes in Section 106


  • 05/29/2020 2:49 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Heritage Business International, L3C (HBI) released the results of its annual Cultural Resources Management (CRM) Financial Performance Survey for 2019 earlier this month. From the press release:

    The report is used by firms to benchmark their performance against competitors in the industry, as a check on financial health, and as a basis for strategic and operational planning.

    The 45-page report includes the background context, survey sampling information, performance statistics, annual change, graphs, and a data summary table. Major categories include gross sales, subcontracting, gross margin, contracting, labor, client retention, cost of capital, debt, and receivables outstanding. Most major categories are broken down into subcategories. The survey report may be purchased and downloaded from heritagebusiness.org.

    Highlights from this year’s survey include:

    • Revenue increased by 15 percent.
    • For the first time, organizations are doing more work as subcontractors than they are as prime contractors.
    • Net profit increased to 5.8 percent.
    • Client retention increased to 41.4 percent.
    • Profitability is below the weighted average cost of capital and what is required for value return.

    “The strengthening market and performance of firms that we knew had been happening can now be quantified” said Christopher Dore, Ph.D., a consultant and the survey manager at HBI. “During 2019, industry firms were stronger than they have been over the past few years. That said, though, overall mean net profits continue to be below the overall mean weighted average cost of capital and this indicates that industry firms continue to lose financial value. That’s not sustainable and should be a significant concern.”

    ACRA members receive 50 percent off of U.S. and Canada CRM industry data reports from Heritage Business International. Get the discount code here.

  • 05/28/2020 3:48 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    After much deliberation and discussion, we are sad to announce that ACRA's San Antonio conference, originally scheduled for September 23-27, 2020, has been postponed. We have not made this decision lightly, but the health and safety of our attendees is ACRA's highest priority.

    A few weeks ago we sent out a poll gauging members' position regarding an in-person conference, and those responses made it clear that the majority of respondents are not comfortable with attending in-person conferences for the remainder of the year. Additionally, even as states begin to open in phases, large gatherings are still discouraged by both state and federal authorities.

    However, there is good news to accompany this disappointment - we will still be offering you the opportunity to get the networking and education you have come to expect from the ACRA Conference.

    What We Are Doing Instead

    We will be offering a partial virtual 2020 conference this fall! The ACRA Conference Committee is working hard to transfer some of our planned San Antonio content to a digital format - including networking opportunities. The virtual conference will also include increased visibility for ACRA sponsors. Stay tuned to your email, the ACRAsphere, and ACRA social media for further information in the coming weeks.

    There is more good news - we will still be heading to San Antonio, just now in 2022. From the beautiful Menger Hotel that is hosting us to the unique historic preservation discussions that the city provides, we don't want conference attendees to miss out on all that San Antonio has to offer. Our San Antonio conference will now be held from September 22-25, 2022.

    We hope you will also plan to join us at ACRA's 2021 Conference, which will be held in Alexandria,VA from September 9-12, 2021. Session planning has already begun, and Alexandria attendees will have the chance to participate directly in raising the profile of the CRM industry through meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill.

    Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have. Stay tuned for more information on our virtual conference shortly, and more importantly, stay healthy!

  • 05/27/2020 10:49 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team


    Your Congress in Action is a new series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • The House passed HR 6800, the HEROES Act, on May 15th. It expresses the Democratic priorities on the next round of pandemic relief funding. The bill is focused on immediate relief – not economic stimulus. Senate Republicans called the bill dead on arrival, but they have yet to introduce their own legislation.

    • The House is set to be in session today and Thursday, for the first time under new rules allowing for proxy voting. The Senate is not set to return until June.

    • Some Senate Republicans are pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to begin moving on another coronavirus relief package in the coming weeks, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, among those pushing for the inclusion of infrastructure spending, something McConnell has resisted.

    • Congress is mulling an agreement on legislation that would double the amount of time businesses have to spend loans obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program to 16 weeks and extend the June 30 deadline for program applications to Dec. 31. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced support for extending PPP's deadlines, but legislation would need to be approved by both the Senate and the House, which is expected to take up legislation to alter the program's time frame this week.

    • Oil and gas companies have proposed more than 150,000 acres of federal land for potential development in the canyons of eastern Utah, some as close as a mile and a half from Arches National Park. The parcels could be auctioned off by the Bureau of Land Management in its September oil and gas lease sale in Utah, conveying drilling rights to the highest bidders for a period of 10 years. Acres nominated for leasing are also close to Canyonlands National Park, Green River and Bears Ears National Monument and encompass areas with wilderness designations and attributes.

    • BLM extended the comment period on the Chaco area drilling plan in response to public outcry can be effective in changing administration policy.

    • Sen. McConnell said he's scheduling a vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the LWCF and address the NPS maintenance backlog, after Memorial Day.

    • Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) is introducing a bill, H.R. 6889, the "Northern Nevada Economic Development, Conservation and Military Modernization Act of 2020," which would triple the acreage of its training complex, Naval Air Station Fallon, near Reno, Nev. The 148-page measure would address plans to significantly expand Naval Air Station Fallon and the Fallon Range Training Complex, as well as address land conveyances in a half-dozen northern counties and create wilderness designations. Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribal Chairman Len George likewise raised concerns about the "monumental impacts" enlarging the naval training center would have, particularly on cultural sites and burials. "Despite the fact that the bill disposes of thousands of acres of our ancestral homelands, we were not consulted in the development of this bill. We and the National Congress of American Indians stand united in opposition to any expansion of NAS Fallon," George told E&E News in a statement.

    • The ACHP has convened a task force on the historic trades. Nicholas Redding of Preservation Maryland will participate, along with representatives from NEA and several colleges and universities. They plan to publish a report this fall.

  • 05/26/2020 2:54 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has extended the use of emergency Section 106 procedures for projects related to COVID-19 until July 31. From the ACHP:

    On April 3, the ACHP authorized an extension to May 29 for all federal agencies to use the emergency procedures to implement COVID-19-related emergency undertakings. These procedures expedite the Section 106 review process for any federal agency that proposes to carry out, license, approve, or fund undertakings that respond to a disaster or emergency declared by the President, a tribal government, or the governor of a state, or which respond to other immediate threats to life or property. Considering the likelihood such declarations will remain in place into the foreseeable near future, the ACHP today extended the use of these provisions until July 31 to allow for the ongoing needs of federal agency response.

    Please note the section 800.12 emergency procedures can only be used for undertakings that will be implemented in response to a disaster or emergency or that respond to other immediate threats to life or property. Examples of such undertakings for COVID-19 response include but are not limited to new construction or adaptation of existing buildings for testing, treatment, or quarantining; creation of COVID-19 temporary facilities; and development of infrastructure specifically built to serve COVID-19 facilities and services. The expedited procedures in section 800.12 do not apply to non-emergency response or recovery undertakings. It is also important to note that the tolling (pausing) of Section 106 reviews by a State or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Indian tribe, or Native Hawaiian organization does not apply to consultation under these emergency procedures.

    The official extension amendment is available here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for additional updates regarding COVID-19 and the CRM industry.

  • 05/22/2020 2:38 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Department of the Interior has extended the public comment period on the Resource Management Plan (RMP) for expanded oil and gas development near New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Thousands of sacred, ancestral sites of indigenous peoples including the Hopi, Navajo and Zuni are located in the Chaco Canyon region, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

    The extension comes after the agency faced criticism from numerous groups regarding the ability of the public to participate in the comment process during the pandemic. The concern particularly applies to tribal nations living near the Chaco Canyon, as many tribe members do not have access to the broadband infrastructure necessary to participate in the virtual public meetings. From Bloomberg Law:

    The extension announced Thursday heeds calls from the Navajo Nation, activists, and Congressional Democrats to allow Navajos living near Chaco Canyon, hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, to have more time to react to the proposal.

    The Bureau of Land Management, part of Interior, expanded the comment period for 120 days, to Sept. 25. BLM officials offered no explanation for the extension, and bureau spokesman Derrick Henry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    ACRA members in the region are encouraged to engage in the public comment process. Comments can be submitted online here, and you can also find additional information on the public engagement process on that page. 





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