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Congressman Ruben Gallego

Representing the 7th District of Arizona

Reps. Gallego, Grijalva and Haaland Demand Answers on National Park Service Changes to National Historic Preservation

July 19, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), joined by Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Deb Haaland (D-NM), sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and the Acting Director of the National Park Service criticizing the Department’s proposed rule issued on March 1, 2019 regarding the preservation of historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

The letter calls for the Department to hold meaningful government-to-government consultations with Tribes on the proposed policy, which have not yet occurred despite the proposed rule’s clear negative impact on tribes’ ability to protect sacred spaces on public land.

The National Historic Preservation Act was designed to ensure that State and Tribal Historic Preservation offices play a key role in determining eligibility and nominating historic properties for the National Register, and to provide a mechanism for appeal. But the administration’s proposed changes would make federal agencies the sole entities empowered to nominate properties on public lands for preservation, and would eliminate the appeals process for individual citizens.

“This proposed rule is yet another example of this administration’s attempts to silence public input on their policies and ignore the right of sovereign tribes to be consulted on policies impacting them. Tribes in Arizona rely on the National Historic Preservation Act to protect burial grounds, cultural artifacts and sacred places, and communities in Phoenix have used the Act to protect over 7,000 historic homes and 39 Historic Districts in my Congressional District alone,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, Chairman of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples. “The administration’s proposed changes to this process would undermine historic preservation efforts like these across the country. That is why the Department must carry out meaningful consultation with tribes and engage with Congress regarding the potential consequences of this proposed rule before finalization.”

“It’s well past time for the Department of the Interior to take its responsibilities to sovereign tribal nations seriously,” said Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva. “From shrinking national monuments that protect sacred land to putting Chaco Canyon at risk from oil and gas drilling, this administration has shown a profound lack of respect for sacred tribal resources, especially when they conflict with extractive industry priorities. Tribes haven’t been consulted on important decisions from the beginning of this administration, and decisions are made under a veil of secrecy. The Department needs to reconsider the path it’s set out on and bring all stakeholders back to the table before this rule is finalized.”

“Tribal consultation is required, but this Administration continues to skirt their consultation obligations with unprecedented rule changes that eliminate consultation altogether. We’re holding them accountable and demanding they consult with tribal governments so they have the opportunity to provide input on issues directly impacting their lands,” said Rep. Deb Haaland, Chairwoman of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.