Grijalva Follows Up on Panelist Concerns at Historic and Cultural Preservation Roundtable, Sends Requests to Interior and GAO

Washington, D.C. – Responding to issues and panelist recommendations discussed at House Natural Resources Committee Democrats’ “Strengthening Historic and Cultural Preservation” roundtable this past November, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today led a letter with five other House Democrats to U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland asking for her to request increased funding for Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs).

Other signers on the letter include Vice Ranking Member Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee Ranking Member Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Rep. Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), and Rep. Donald S. Beyer (D-Va.).

In the letter, the lawmakers highlight how recent modest increases in funding are not sufficient to keep pace with the growing need for THPOs:

Although THPOs received a significant increase in Fiscal Year 2023, unfortunately, it does not offset the many years of modest increases. Before the $7 million increase in Fiscal Year 2023, the average THPO received around $75,000 in HPF funding. The 2023 increase raised that average number to just over $100,000. However, THPOs are expected to respond to thousands of requests for consultation on the impact that infrastructure and energy projects would have on their Nations’ cultural resources and sacred places.

Read the full letter to Secretary Haaland.

Ranking Member Grijalva also sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting 1) a review of the National Register of Historic Places, 2) a review of challenges facing THPOs and State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), and 3) a review of the implementation of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

In the letter, Ranking Member Grijalva points out issues of growing concern in the historic and cultural preservation community. He also highlights the importance of SHPOs and THPOs in ensuring the telling of America’s story through preservation is complete and accurate: 

In recent years, there has been an increasing concern related to equity and inclusion in the preservation community, with particular criticism directed at the National Register and the identification and designation process. As a result, many have started to examine how and whether the listings in the National Register tell and represent our nation’s full story and, if not, what impediments exist that prevent it from doing so.

SHPOs and THPOs play critical roles in implementing the NHPA are often keepers of invaluable knowledge and expertise about important historic sites and cultural resources in their areas. SHPOs and THPOs have described a myriad of challenges in executing their duties, including difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff and insufficient resources.

Read the full request to GAO.

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Lindsay Gressard