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Friday, June 28, 2013

NHPAat50: Support of the Executive Branch

U.S. President John F. Kennedy, right, and Democratic congressional leaders watch the Atlas rocket and the newly-manned Mercury spacecraft blast off at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a television set in the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20, 1962. From left are, Rep. Hale Boggs, Louisiana; House Speaker John McCormack, Massachusetts, partially hidden; Rep. Carl Albert, Oklahoma; Sen. Hubert Humphrey, Minnesota; Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Kennedy. (AP Photo)

To fully understand the political philosophy and process by which passage of the NHPA was secured we must first look to the Kennedy Administration. President John F. Kennedy provided the highest level of presidential leadership for conservation since Franklin D. Roosevelt.[i] He presented a “Special Message to the Congress on Natural Resources” on February 23, 1961. This was followed by a “White House Conference on Conservation” on May 25, 1962. Kennedy wrote the preface to Stewart Udall’s book The Quiet Crisis that was first published in 1963. Among President Kennedy’s greatest contributions to conservation “was his reassertion of the concept that the Federal government has a primary responsibility to exercise its authority on issues involving natural resources and the environment.”[ii] This support for conservation during the Kennedy Administration culminated in the Johnson Administration.[iii] Further, the Kennedy strategy for supporting conservation is one that was copied and applied writ large to the support of historic preservation during the Johnson Administration.

Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall was a Kennedy appointee who continued to serve under President Johnson. As early as 1961 he began talking about the need for a Conservation Fund similar to the Highway Trust Fund. Such a fund would provide a much needed infusion of resources that would allow for targeted acquisition of open space that was rapidly being  lost to development. The Budget office initially panned the idea, favoring entrance fees to be charged to National Parks. This generated only around $12 million a year and was far short of the $30 million to $50 million that was desired.[iv] Ultimately a Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964. This fund later served as a prototype for establishing a similar Historic Preservation Fund in 1977, authorized up to $150 million annually.[v]

Kennedy’s notion of expanding the role of the Federal government to support conservation, and Udall’s persistence in finding and providing an infusion of money to support that expanded role, proved a potent pairing in the Johnson Administration’s support of conservation in general and historic preservation in particular.

In our next installment of "NHPAat50" next Friday, we will look at shifting notions of historic preservation and the Task Force on Natural Beauty.

[i] Gould, Lewis. Lady Bird Johnson and the Environment. 1988. p. 41.
[ii] Gould, Lewis. Lady Bird Johnson and the Environment. 1988. p. 41.
[iii] Frantz, Joe B. Interview with Stuart Udall. May 19, 1969. Credit: LBJ Library.
[iv] Frantz, Joe B. Interview with Stuart Udall. May 19, 1969. Credit: LBJ Library.
[v] National Park Service. “Historic Preservation Fund.” Accessed December 28, 2012. http://www.nps.gov/history/thpo/downloads/HISTORIC-PRESERVATION-FUND.pdf

Friday, June 21, 2013

NHPAat50: The Williamsburg Conference and With Heritage So Rich

Cover of the groundbreaking report, With Heritage So Rich, published in January 1966.

An important anniversary will occur in the fall of 2013 that will likely get little attention. Fifty years ago this year the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Colonial Williamsburg sponsored a national conference on preservation at Williamsburg. This was meant to bring growing attention to how initiatives of the federal government to improve transportation and renew cities were apparently working at cross purposes with the national preservation program at the time. At this important conference advocates called for a broader national historic sites survey and better planning for urban growth. Restoration practices were reviewed and the need for professional training underscored. The results later appeared in a report titled Historic Preservation Today, that was published in 1966.

Following the conference a small group of preservationists gathered in the summer of 1964, to push for a new preservation law. Carl Feiss, an architect and planner with a preservation background, worked with Laurance G. Henderson, a Washington urban affairs lobbyist. They quickly identified Rep. Albert Rains (D-Ala.) and Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) were interested in urban issues and the need for better public planning. Henderson laid out a plan for a blue-ribbon committee to travel to Europe and study how various countries were funding preservation. The trip culminated in a published report and a major campaign for a new preservation law in 1966. Feiss and Henderson formed a special committee on historic preservation with Albert Rains as chairman. The National Trust provided staff support in drafting new legislation.

Aiding them in the cause was John Gunther, executive director of the United State Conference of Mayors, who helped finance and plan the trip scheduled for October-November 1965. Money for the travel and support was provided by the Mellon philanthropies and the Ford Foundation. Connections were forged with preservation leaders from throughout the world, that proved very valuable at supporting the innovation needed at home in the U.S. After several months of writing and work, the project culminated with the publication of With Heritage So Rich in January 1966. This was only the starting point for a major legislative push to follow throughout most of the rest of that year, culminating in the signing of the National Historic Preservation Act into law on October 15, 1966.

In our next installment of "NHPAat50" next Friday, we will look at the role of the Executive Branch in the lead-up to passage of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Excellent Call to Action Video - Courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation

We in preservation too often fail at getting our message before a national audience of potential supporters. You have to imagine our sense of chagrin and quiet satisfaction seeing this excellent video courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation.

Breaking it down a bit - here is what worked well in this video.

1. "We cherish their beauty, we marvel at their majesty, we embrace their heritage." - Wonderful writing grabs listener attention right away.

2. Establishes value quickly, in this case for the National Forests. Even the title, "Our National Forests Depend On Us" is a call to action.

3. Clearly states how we benefit from our National Forests.

4. Establishes threat - fires, destruction, etc.

5. Returns to the original upbeat theme with inspiring images and the song Simple Gifts playing in the background.

6. Gives people something them to do - guides them to ArborDay.org.

What makes this video even more useful for this particular cause is that it is running on national Cable TV. It would be interesting to the level of giving brought in by this well crafted piece of video. With this post the challenge is thrown - can some of our national, statewide, regional, and local organizations create a video with the same power and ability to generate results as this one? If so, please share with us or via Twitter using the @PlacePromo tag.