Cultural Resource Protection

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Download a one-page program summary 
 

Protecting historic, architectural, and archaeological sites as part of the public planning process is one of the primary responsibilities of the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Those duties are encompassed in the cultural-resource review process carried out under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and its regulations and under the Illinois State Agency Historic Resource Preservation Act and its administrative rules. The part of the federal law involving cultural-resource review is contained in Section 106, so we call the federal regulatory process “Section 106.” The state law, which was written to mirror the federal law, was passed in 1989 as Public Act 86-707, so we call the state regulatory process “Section 707.”  These two laws require that state and federal agencies consider the effects of their actions on historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  When a project involves both a state and federal action, the federal law takes precedence.

Project submission

Because the two laws require that federal and state entities submit all of their projects to us for review, the Illinois SHPO reviews thousands of projects every year. Submissions under these laws must be made in writing and mailed to our office in Springfield. Submission requirements are available for downloadWe also may enter into Programmatic Agreements with agencies, entities, and communities to streamline individual project review. When the state and federal agencies or their designees submit a project to us, they are required to have identified any sites of historic, architectural, or archaeological significance located within the project area. This may require hiring an archaeologist to inspect the property for archaeological sites or hiring a historian to research the history of buildings affected by the project.

No historic properties effected

For the vast majority of projects that do not involve cultural resources listed in or eligible for listing in the NRHP, we respond with a letter approving the project.

Historic properties effected

When the project agency has identified potentially historic cultural resources in or near its project, it consults with SHPO staff to determine if the resources meet the criteria for listing in the NRHP. The SHPO staff may also make their own determinations of significance. When there are significant or potentially significant resources, SHPO staff will review the project’s scope of work to determine whether it will negatively affect them.  If it might, the responsible agencies must consult with SHPO staff to seek ways to change project plans to avoid harming the resources. This may include revising architectural plans to ensure that the historic character of the property is maintained, or redesigning development plans to avoid disturbing archaeological sites and protect them.

When the State of Illinois or the federal government decides to deaccession a historic building, we can avoid the adverse effect of removing it from public ownership and regulatory oversight by attaching a historic-preservation covenant to the property. When an undertaking involves moving out of a historic building, we often will avoid the negative impact of abandoning the building by attaching a preservation covenant. Our model historic-preservation covenant for standing structures is available for informational purposes only. Your actual covenant language may differ, as each site and application are unique. When an archaeological site is in the middle of a project, we will attach a preservation covenant for archaeology. The Department is not attempting to provide legal advice through these examples. 

Mitigating adverse effects

Sometimes project plans cannot be altered enough to avoid harming cultural resources, so we must seek solutions that mitigate the project’s adverse effects to those cultural resources. In these cases, the parties sign a Memorandum of Agreement that identifies the adverse effects and details how they will be mitigated. The model Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement and the model Section 707 Memorandum of Agreement are available for informational purposes only. If the property is archaeologically significant, a professional excavation is conducted to collect information about the people who once occupied the site. If buildings cannot be retained, mitigation will include recording the property both architecturally and historically in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation and additional activities that further historic-preservation efforts in the project community. Sample language for mitigation is included in the model Memoranda of Agreement mentioned above. The mitigation should be in proportion to the scale of the overall project. A list of previous records are available for viewing at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. Recordation must be done by professionals who meet the National Park Service’s Professional Qualifications Standards described in 36 CFR Part 61. This office maintains an interest list of consultants in the fields of History and Architectural History who meet these qualifications.

A common misconception about these programs is that the IL SHPO's review can "stop" a project. In fact, both the state and federal laws authorize the funding agency to make the final decision about preservation. The IL SHPO's role is to assure that any adverse effects on cultural resources are recognized and accommodated through mitigation before a project begins. This process also assures that the funding agency's activity and its impact on cultural resources are subject to public discussion.