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What is the National Historic Preservation Act?

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is intended to protect and preserve important historical and cultural sites within the United States. Under the Act, federal agencies act as stewards of historic properties owned by the federal government or affected by its actions.

What is Section 106 of the NHPA?

Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions (or undertakings) on historic properties. If there would be an adverse effect on one or more historic properties, the federal agency would be required to consider ways to alter the undertaking to avoid or reduce that effect. If an adverse effect would still occur, the agency would be required to resolve the effect by implementing mitigation measures. Agencies must provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)—the first and only federal agency created solely to address historic preservation issues—an opportunity to comment on the undertaking prior to the agency making a final decision. Regulations regarding Protection of Historic Properties (Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations Part 800) outline how federal agencies are to consult with interested parties as well as how to identify historic properties, determine whether and how the properties might be affected by an undertaking, and resolve adverse effects. The Section 106 process must be completed prior to the federal agency making a final decision on the undertaking.

Historic photograph of the Fort D.A. Russell headquarters at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
Historic photograph of the Fort D.A. Russell headquarters at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

What is an Undertaking?

An undertaking is any project, activity, or program that a federal agency carries out or that receives federal financial assistance, permits, or approvals. Undertakings can be implemented either on or off federally controlled property.

What is a Historic Property?

A historic property is any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, or object that is eligible for listing or already is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Also included are any artifacts, records, and remains (surface or subsurface) related to and located within historic properties, and properties of exceptional significance designated as National Historic Landmarks. Properties can be eligible for listing for their historical, archaeological, architectural, engineering, or cultural significance. Historic properties include properties of traditional religious and cultural significance to the Air Force’s culturally affiliated Tribes.

National Register of Historic Places plaque.
National Register of Historic Places plaque.

Section 106 Consultation

Consultation is the cornerstone of the Section 106 process, initiated in the early stages of project planning. The federal agency seeks, discusses, and considers the views of other interested parties and, where feasible, seeks agreement with them regarding matters arising out of the Section 106 process. These interested parties can include State Historic Preservation Officers, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, culturally affiliated Tribes, state and local governments, organizations with a demonstrated interest in the undertaking and its effects on historic properties, and the public. These parties are referred to as Consulting Parties.

Federal agencies identify historic properties and assess the effect of an undertaking on those properties in consultation with knowledgeable Consulting Parties. Agencies also work with cultural resource subject matter experts to assess the effects and determine if they are adverse. These experts may include agency personnel, contractors, or other resource experts, including Tribal traditional practitioners.

If the effects on a historic property from the undertaking would be adverse, the federal agency develops and executes a legally binding agreement between the federal agency, ACHP, and the Consulting Parties. The agreement sets forth the terms and conditions to be implemented by the agency to resolve the adverse effects of the undertaking, which can include excavating archaeological sites, photographing buildings, preparing measured drawings of engineered structures, collecting oral histories, translating historical documents, or developing educational or interpretive materials for the public.

Historic photograph of construction of a Minuteman III launch control center.
Historic photograph of construction of a Minuteman III launch control center.

Completing Section 106 for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Project

The Air Force has determined that the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Deployment and Minuteman III Decommissioning and Disposal Project (the Proposed Action) is an undertaking with the potential to affect historic properties and has initiated the Section 106 process. The GBSD Project would be a multi-year project conducted in multiple states, posing a challenge to timely compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA. Section 106 regulations allow for phased identification and evaluation of historic properties and assessment of specific effects for complex projects such as the GBSD Project.

The Air Force is proposing a Programmatic Agreement (PA) for phasing Section 106 compliance as an alternative approach to help the Air Force in its mission to protect and preserve historic and traditional cultural properties in the GBSD Project area. The PA would describe the processes to be implemented for the duration of the GBSD Project for consultation with culturally affiliated Tribes and other Consulting Parties, identification and evaluation of historic properties, assessment of effects on historic properties, and development of appropriate measures to resolve adverse effects. This PA would be developed in consultation with culturally affiliated Tribes, other Consulting Parties, and the ACHP.

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