Preservation Legislation

In 1966, Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act to create a national program to identify, evaluate, and protect our country’s cultural resources. Congress believed that the spirit of our country was founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage and that cultural resources should be preserved “as a living part of our community life” and to “give a sense of orientation to the American people.”

Cultural resources are the objects, places, and buildings that reflect our American identity and heritage and include buildings, battlefields, bridges, gardens, archaeological sites, parks, forests, historic districts, artifacts, and old documents. Cultural resources are the irreplaceable patrimony of all Americans. They are the link from the present to the past and help define who we are as a people and as a nation. There are over 100,000 archaeological resources on Department of Defense lands throughout the United States.

Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the president of the United States to set aside federal lands as historic landmarks. It allows the federal government to acquire private land for preservation. The act states that only qualified individuals like archaeologists and anthropologists may conduct excavations on federal property.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966

This act created a national program to identify, evaluate, and protect cultural resources through conservation and interpretation. It authorized the Secretary of the Interior to create and maintain the National Register of Historic Places. The act required the establishment of State Historic Preservation Officers to oversee work in their states and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers to oversee work on tribal lands.

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969

NEPA was created to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of the nation. Federal agencies must consider how a proposed project will affect the environment by reviewing the project and reasonable project alternatives. A formal assessment of the effects must be published with input from the public.

Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979

ARPA makes it unlawful for people to trespass on federal land to excavate, remove, damage, alter, or deface archaeological resources. Scientific archaeological investigations can be conducted by qualified permit holders. All materials remain the property of the federal government.