In President Trump’s first Budget Blueprint, historic preservation and the humanities could see a major shift in federal support. We’ve broken down the details to give you a sense for what these changes could mean for preservation.

In the 2018 Budget Blueprint, “America First,” President Trump outlines his federal spending priorities and recommends a number of reductions and eliminations in federal support – many of which could impact how preservation is accomplished.

Department of the interior

Historically, the Department of the Interior (DOI), which includes the National Park Service (NPS), has been the cabinet level department responsible for the vast majority of the nation’s preservation policy and funding. The Park Service oversees the Historic Preservation Fund, Historic Tax Credit program, National Heritage Areas, Historic American Building Survey and many more important programs.

The Blueprint proposes a number of significant changes with respect to preservation:

  • Reduces funding for land acquisition in National Parks by $120 million. In Maryland, this could mean that new national parks, like Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Site would not have adequate resources to acquire historically sensitive lands. Although the blueprint is not specific enough to address where these cuts would be made, its also possible that this reduction could impact the American Battlefield Protection Program, which has saved thousands of acres of hallowed ground nationwide, including significant acreage at Maryland’s three Civil War battlefields.
  • Eliminates the National Heritage Areas program funding, which provides support to 49 heritage areas around the nation, including, in Maryland the Baltimore National Heritage Area and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Heritage Area.
  • Further eliminates unspecified “unnecessary…and duplicative programs.” It is unknown what this budget proposal suggests, but clearly the intent is further elimination of Interior programs.
  • Reduces Interior and Park Service “major maintenance” programs at a time when the NPS backlog of maintenance is nearly $12 billion.
  • Imposes a 12% reduction in funding across the board – potentially hitting front-line services of NPS sites hardest as well as other agencies programs such as the historic tax credit review staff.

Department of housing and urban development

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is responsible for providing access to affordable and decent housing is home to a number of programs that impact the way preservation is carried out around the nation.

The Blueprint proposes a number of significant changes with respect to preservation:

department of the treasury

At the Department of the Treasury, the major impact to preservation comes in the elimination of funding for Community Development Financial Institutions Fund grants. This program has assisted with the establishment of revolving loan programs around the nation and has created some of the most successful model efforts in cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

commerce department

At Commerce, the major impact to preservation comes in the elimination of  $250 million from coastal research programs that ready communities for rising seas and worsening storms. In Maryland, this could impact efforts to protect Annapolis and other historic communities at the water’s edge from rising seas.

energy department

At the Department of Energy, preservationists could lose funding to assist with the weatherization of historic homes as a result of the proposed elimination of the Weatherization Assistance Program.

independent agencies

Perhaps the most profound impacts to preservation and the humanities may be found in the proposals for the nation’s many independent agencies:

What happens next?

In Washington, the old saying is that the “President proposes and the Congress disposes” referring to the power Congress holds over the federal appropriations process. A detailed version of the Trump budget is expected in the spring and would then head to Congress for consideration and markup. Learn more about federal appropriations.

The 2018 Budget Blueprint is far from a final document, but its publication does suggest that preservationists around the nation should be concerned about the future of funding for many mission-critical programs.

Read the Full Blueprint