Caring for the Past, Managing for the Future

March 01, 2001
Caring For the Past Report


During the last two years, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has been studying how the Federal Government could do a better job of preserving the historic resources that it controls, and how it could implement sound policies for their stewardship as we enter the next century. This special report presents the results of this study.

The Council met with key Federal officials from many of the Federal agencies with stewardship responsibilities for historic resources as well as other interested parties, held onsite meetings at Federal facilities and management areas, and solicited views and ideas from a variety of individuals ranging from agency heads to private citizens. The agency conducted research and assembled suggestions on how the Federal Government could meet its stewardship responsibilities for America’s cultural heritage more effectively, while acting as a more effective leader, manager, and partner with State, tribal, and local governments and the private sector in this endeavor.

The Council’s study reviewed many examples of Federal historic preservation stewardship, both positive and negative. It concluded that improvements could be made in three major areas: leadership in building a historic resource stewardship ethic; commitment for taking care of the Nation’s historic public assets; and accountability for making decisions that are in the public interest. A fourth area, collaboration, was found to be an important means for achieving these and related objectives.

As the new century opens, it is vital that Americans learn to appreciate and take better care of our rich heritage. The protection and enhancement of the Nation’s patrimony must be viewed as a continuing national priority, and the Federal Government must demonstrate its leadership and commitment to effective public stewardship of America ’s past.

The Council believes that the Federal Government must assert its role as first among equals in the care of public property. In the process, Federal agencies can develop and sustain creative, cost-effective solutions to managing the resources that are part of the Nation’s heritage. Creating these solutions is not only in the national public interest, but is the right thing to do for ourselves and for generations to come.