Leadership of the National Park Service has proposed substantial and worrisome changes to the rules that govern nominations to the National Register of Historic Places which would severely and negatively impact the preservation of historic places around the country.

From the State Historic Preservation Office: The Maryland Historical Trust has provided official comment on the proposed National Register rule changes in a letter to the National Park Service, stating “The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) has grave concerns about the proposed changes and their effect on the future of Maryland’s heritage.”

Read the full statement

New Rules Threaten 50 Years of Preservation Law

The new rules, drafted by Trump Administration appointees to the National Park Service and Department of the Interior would make several substantial changes to the 53-year-old program – all aimed at making it more complex and difficult to list properties on the National Register of Historic Places. The most alarming proposed changes include:

Amending the process for National Register Nominations

As it stands now, a majority of private property owners within the proposed district can defeat the nomination by filing objections. Under the new rule, however, the owners of “a majority of the land area” within the proposed district would be needed to defeat the nomination. This means that the democratic principle of one person, one vote would be contradicted, allowing those who own the most property to control the vote and not the majority of property owners.

Amending the Role of Federal Agencies in National Register Nominations

The changes would establish a de-facto pocket veto for federal agencies desiring to block nomination significant historic places. The changes would designate federal agencies as the only channels for any National Register nomination of federal property. Therefore, if an agency were to oppose a designation, it could prevent the National Register nomination from moving forward by choosing not to act.

This new ability of federal agencies being able to essentially veto National Register nominations under the new rule would extend to determining National Register eligibility as well, severely impacting the Section 106 process, which applies when federal activities could negatively impact historic properties either listed on or eligible to be listed on the National Register.

Harmful Impacts to Use of the Historic Tax Credit

The proposed changes would ultimately restrict the availability of the Historic Tax Credit to revitalize neighborhoods. To use the Historic Tax Credit, the property must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If a minority of property owners who owned a “majority of the land area” in a proposed historic district were to be able to block its National Register listing, all property owners would be prevented from taking advantage of the Historic Tax Credit, one of the most effective and important incentives for private investment community revitalization and preservation.

Proposed Changes Done Without Any Tribal Consultation

Along with the worrisome policies, these rule changes were also proposed without any meaningful tribal consultation even though the new rules would significantly impact tribal cultural sites on public and private lands. Additionally, no other federal agencies or State Historic Preservation Offices were consulted before the changes were proposed.

Fortunately, the public has an opportunity to weigh in on the National Park Service’s proposal. The Park Service is soliciting public comments on the proposed rule changes until April 30, 2019.

Preservation Maryland has started a petition and drafted a letter to Joy Beasley, Associate Director (Acting), Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science at the National Park Service and encourages all Marylanders to sign and send their comments to be heard.

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7 Ways the Proposed Revisions Will Negatively Impact Your Community
Preservation Action

Proposed Rule Changes to National Register of Historic Places Nominations
National Trust for Historic Preservation

Analysis of the Proposed National Register Rule Changes
Michigan Historic Preservation Network

Coalition Comments on Proposed Changes to National Register
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks