Preservation Laws & Policy

At all levels of government, there are a variety of laws and policies that establish preservation as a tool and requirement. Below will discuss the major laws and policies that have created the basic infrastructure of preservation through the government sector. 

Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act is a Congressional action passed in 1906, signed into law by then President Theodore Roosevelt, that responded to growing pressures of industry and special interests upon ancient sites. Archeological sites became National Monuments under the law, which became subject to clear terms for permit grantees to work within those sites. The law also forged an inextricable connection between archaeology on federal lands and public institutions.

Kin Kletso at Chaco Culture National Historical Park which was established in 1907 through the Antiquities Act. Photo Public Domain. 


For historic preservation, the Antiquities Act provided the foundation for legal protection of culture and natural resources. It instated legitimate involvement of agencies to preserve historic places, landscapes and structures, elevating the professionalism of conservation and preservation alike.


Much like the enactment of the law was controversial, it is as vulnerable as the doctrine to uphold laws favoring the longevity and integrity of our celebrated, cultural assets. The Antiquities is a landmark law that established the basis for federal historic preservation policy, which would hold such grounds until passage until the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966.

To learn more about the Antiquities Act and its foundational impact, visit:

National Park Service

Antiquities Act of 1906
The Antiquities Act: A Century of Historic Preservation


Congressional Research Service
National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

Historic Sites Act of 1935

The Historic Sites Act of 1935 is a Congressional action that expanded the role of the National Park Service in historic preservation. Previously, federal laws had conserved parks and federal lands west of the Mississippi River. Efforts to expand the National Park System prompted interest in the cataloging of sites across the country that helped to exemplify national heritage.

Three-story brick building with stone steps leading to entrance with columns and eagle on roofThe Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first established National Historic Site in 1938. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.


Through the passage of the Historic Sites Act, the National Park Service assumed a responsibility to carry out new programs. Among them were new offices and projects that evolved to become the Park History Program, the National Historic Sites Program, and the Park Planning & Special Division. The National Park System Advisory Board was also created under the law, mobilizing the designation of national historic and natural landmarks, as well as signifying the historic significance of national historic trails. 


Section 462 of the law charged the National Park Service and Secretary of the Interior to codify the Historic American Buildings Survey and establish the National Historic Sites Program, the latter of which later became the National Landmarks Program.

To learn more about the Historic Sites Act of 1935 and its legacy, visit:

United States Code, under the Office of Law Revision Counsel
Historic Sites Act of 1935 (as originally passed)


National Park Service
Historic Sites Act (as amended)


National Park Service
Historic Sites Act of 1935

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990 is Congressional Act that provides guidance to federal agencies and museums to return specific types of indigenous cultural items to tribes, lineal descendants, and native organizations.

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for the stewardship of massive collection of objects in the Department of the Interior. NAGPRA established a process for handling new discoveries of indigenous remains and sacred objects. The act requires consultation with indigenous tribes and organizations, to assist in the identification and treatment of those items. In effect, NAGPRA recognizes native populations as experts of exhumed indigenous objects or remains. 


Grass-covered mounds surrounded by trees

A collection of Hopewell culture burial mounds 40 miles south of Columbus. Archeologists with what is now the Ohio History Center excavated these and other mounds in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.


To learn more about NAGPRA and its impact on cultural conservation, visit:

National Park Service
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act


Bureau of Indian Affairs
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act


Bureau of Land Management
Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Ac


U.S. Government Accountability Office

Native American Priorities: Protection and Repatriation of Human Remains and Other Cultural Items

National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966

“Penn Station’s destruction provided an important catalyst for the passage of New York City’s Landmarks Law in 1965,” provoking serious consideration about historic preservation legislation. Photo Public Domain. 


The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 is the most comprehensive preservation law the nation had ever known. It was passed by Congress primarily to acknowledge the importance of protecting our nation’s heritage from rampant federal development. It was the triumph of more than a century of struggle by a grassroots movement of committed preservationist that was exemplified in a Congressional report called With Heritage So Rich. 


The NHPA-established partnership between federal, state, and tribal governments initiates matching grants for qualified preservation programs. The law also established the independent federal agency Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which “administers the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act, advises Congress and the White House on Preservation Policy, addresses critical issues raised by Indian tribes and native Hawaiian organizations, and presents awards to honor excellence in historic preservation.”


Principally, however, the Act requires federal agencies to consider impacts of their work on historic properties, through Sections 106 and 110 and also established the National Register of Historic Places. 


The passage of the formalized and professionalized historic preservation in the United States and mandated preservation be a consideration in federal projects and at the state level. 


Some key elements from the Act:

  • Sets the federal policy for preserving our nation’s heritage
  • Establishes a federal-state and federal-tribal partnership
  • Establishes the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Programs
  • Mandates the selection of qualified State Historic Preservation Officers
  • Establishes the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Charges Federal Agencies with responsible stewardship of historic resources
  • Establishes the role of Certified Local Governments 


For more information about the NHPA, visit:

National Park Service
National Historic Preservation Act


Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)
National Historic Preservation Act
Preservation 50: 1966-2016


United States Code, Office of the Law Revision Counsel
54 USC Subtitle III: National Preservation Programs

Certified Local Governments

A Certified Local Government (CLG) are municipalities that have demonstrated, through a certification process, a commitment to local preservation through meeting a set of standards set by the Federal Government. The CLG program was federally mandated as part of an amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and is administered by the National Park Service through the State Historic Preservation Offices.


The program establishes a partnership between Local, State and Federal governments that is central to carrying out a wide range of historic preservation activities. 


To become a CLG, a municipality applies through their State Historic Preservation Office and must demonstrate the following requirements:


  • A qualified historic preservation commission

  • Enforcement of appropriate State or local legislation for the designation and protection of historic properties. In most cases, this is done in the form of a local ordinance.

  • Maintain a system for the survey and inventory of local historic resources.

  • Facilitate public participation in the local preservation, including participation in the National Register listing process.

  • Follow additional requirements outlined in the State’s CLG Procedures. 


Benefits of the program include the following:

  • Funding: Each State is required to give a portion of their allocation of the Federal Historic Preservation Fund as subgrants to CLG communities. These grants can fund a wide variety of projects including: surveys, National Register nominations, rehabilitation work, design guidelines, educational programs, training, structural assessments, and feasibility studies. Priorities for the grants and an application process is established through the State Historic Preservation Office. 

  • Technical Assistance: Each SHPO has a designated CLG Coordinator on their staff that provides technical assistance to the CLGs.

  • National Register Roll: CLG’s are responsible for reviewing and commenting on all National Register nominations for properties within their jurisdiction providing an opportunity for the municipality to participate in the process. 


Certified Local Governments in the Cincinnati Preservation Association region include:

  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Mariemont, OH
  • Montgomery, OH
  • Glendale, OH
  • Loveland, OH
  • Covington, KY
  • Newport, KY
  • Bellevue, KY
  • Boone Co, KY
Section 106 and Section 110

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires that each federal agency identify and assess the effects its actions may have on historic resources, both above ground and below ground (archeological). Under the requirements each agency must consider views and concerns from the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, State Historic Preservation Offices, Certified Local Governments, interested parties and the general public, about historic preservation issues when making final projects designs and decisions. Activities on projects include project activity, assisting, funding, permitting, licensing, or approving.  The ACHP established regulations that guide federal agencies and others in the Section 106 process.


Section 110 of the NHPA “requires that federal agencies to establish a preservation program to identify and protect historic properties under their jurisdiction or control” (Report to the ACHP and SOI, in accordance with Section 3 of Executive Order 13287 Preserve America). Furthermore, Section 110 “sets out these broad historic preservation responsibilities of federal agencies and is intended to ensure that historic preservation is fully integrated into their ongoing programs. Federal agencies with responsibilities regarding housing must consider historic properties as part of their program planning, addressing the role historic buildings can play in providing housing and the potential impacts of housing projects and programs on historic properties of all types” (ACHP Housing and Historic Preservation Policy Statement).


For more on Sections 106 and 110 of the NHPA, visit:


An Introduction to Section 106
Protecting Historic Properties
A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review


Overview of Sections 106 & 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act


U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Section 110 Guidelines: The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Federal Agency Historic Preservation Programs Pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act

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