CRM professionals came to Washington earlier this month for ACRA’s 2024 Capitol Hill fly-in. And their message was clear: investing in preservation is a win-win for everyone.

ACRA members met with nearly 30 Senate and House offices on Wednesday, May 8. In their meetings, they urged their House and Senate representatives to act on these issues:

  • Striking a balance between accelerating infrastructure projects and the need to protect and preserve our historic properties and assets through the Section 106 process.
  • Passing a long-term reauthorization for the Historic Preservation Fund and increasing its authorized level to help states, communities and Tribes continue protecting the places that tell our nation’s story.
  • Providing $225 million for the Historic Preservation Fund for fiscal year 2025 to help states, communities and Tribes facilitate preservation projects and Section 106 reviews.

The Hill meetings came as policymakers in Washington begin debate on funding federal programs for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The process, which was delayed because Congress failed to pass the current year’s appropriations bills until March, formally kicks off this week in the House Appropriations Committee.

But the process will be bumpy, as House Republicans look to cut funding for agencies other than Defense by about six percent from the current year, including preservation programs at the Department of the Interior and other agencies. Democrats are insisting on somewhat higher levels. And with the clock ticking towards the November elections, it is all but a certainty that Congress will need to pass at least one stopgap continuing resolution to keep agencies open and running beyond Sept. 30.

Congress also may consider permitting reform, albeit the odds are against that. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is not running for re-election, has been trying for months to get the Senate to act on reforms to how infrastructure projects are permitted at the federal level. But big disagreements between the two parties make it unlikely that major permitting reform legislation will happen in 2024.

In their meetings on the Hill, ACRA members stressed that, while the federal permitting process can be made faster and more efficient, weakening preservation laws and exempting entire classes of projects from Section 106 is not the way to do it. Instead, ACRA members made the case that Congress can strengthen the permitting process by:

  • Increasing funding for state and tribal historic preservation offices so they can process reviews efficiently.
  • Encouraging use of programmatic approaches to preservation reviews.
  • Increasing opportunities for public involvement during early stages of project development, avoiding or reducing subsequent controversies and conflicts.
  • Supporting the digitization of historic resources, which improves public access to information and allows for earlier and more efficient review of federal undertakings.

As the debate over permitting reform and federal funding for preservation continues, ACRA will continue educating federal policymakers about the importance of cultural resource management. To add your voice to the mix and get involved with advocating for the CRM industry, please email us.