State and Federal Legislation Can Save Historic Properties

In Montana

Content's Corner, Virginia City, ca. 1868

By now the news is out that Montana legislators did not authorize funds to build a new Montana Historical Society or fund grants for historic properties through the bed tax. As MPA members know, a small amount of state funding could have gone a long way to shore up and maintain our Treasure State treasures. We owe much gratitude to Rep. Jenny Eck, Helena and Sen. Jill Cohenour, East Helena for their heroic efforts to fund heritage preservation at the state level. The MPA will continue to work with stakeholders between the sessions to find a new way forward.  

Meanwhile, one big bright spot from the 2017 session was $2 million in funds earmarked for preservation efforts in Virginia and Nevada Cities. A big thank you goes out to Sen. Jim Keane, Butte, Sen. Jeff Wellborn, Dillon and Rep. Ray Shaw, Sheridan for their work to find and direct these much needed funds. This one-time infusion will fund efforts to remodel and maintain the Fairweather Inn, Nevada City Hotel and Cabins, Contents Corner, City Bakery and several other high visibility buildings.

US Senator Jon Tester; MPA Board Member Mary Murphy; MPA Director, Chere Jiusto; National Trust For Historic Preservation, Tom Cassidy; US Senator Steve Daines. 

In Washington

This year, several Montana officials in the Congress and Administration will affect the preservation of our nation’s culture and heritage. Our new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke loves Glacier Park and is committed to repairing the infrastructure of our nation’s parks, Senator Steve Daines is chairing the Senate subcommittee on National Parks, and both Senator Daines and Senator Jon Tester from Montana sit on the Senate Appropriations committee and on the subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies which has jurisdiction over all of the heritage, culture and arts programs. 

We must be hopeful that baseline funding for preservation, and addressing the critical issues for preservation these days -- how to address the enormous infrastructure backlog in our national parks, whether to strengthen historic preservation tax credits, and how the National Historic Preservation Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund will fare – will be in the mix in the upcoming months and years.

These programs are critical to Montana’s heritage tourism economy and local development in communities large and small. Our Montana economy and the gateway communities in our state depend on national parks and our state parks as a draw for visitors and infrastructure includes all of the beloved historic inns, lodges, chalets and more in our park system. MPA Executive Director Chere Jiusto carried this message to DC in mid-May, joined by MPA board member Mary K. Murphy and Martha Williams, Director of MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Update on President Trump’s Proposed 2018 Budget

Entitled "A New Foundation for American Greatness," President Trump’s recently proposed budget for 2018 dramatically reduces funding or begins to eliminate programs that support heritage, culture and the arts.

Overall, the budget slashes domestic budgets to expand military funding.  The President would cut the National Historic Preservation Fund by 36%, and his budget “proposes to begin shutting down” the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts. We have yet to see how his ideas on tax reform may affect preservation tax credits but there is cause for concern as they are the most significant funds that Montanan’s can tap to save and repurpose historic buildings. Many such properties are the anchor buildings in the core of our historic downtowns, their loss is a blow to communities, particularly smaller rural towns.

Montanans are a literate, cultured people who deeply cherish their history. Studies have shown that preservation, humanities and the creative arts aren’t just a nice idea, they are a big part of Montana’s and the nation’s economy. At MPA, we hear every week from people looking for funding and partners to make it possible to preserve heritage properties.

To contact your senators and let them know your views:

Daines, Steve - (R - MT)

320 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2651

Contact: www.daines.senate.gov/connect/email-steve

Tester, Jon - (D - MT)

311 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-2644

Contact: www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator