The National Historic Preservation Act turned 50 in 2016. The law is perhaps the nation’s most important advocate for the past. Buildings and landscapes that serve as witnesses to our national heritage have been saved. The quality of life in our cities and towns has been improved by a greater appreciation — reflected in the law — of such intangible qualities as aesthetics, identity and the legacy of the past.

It truly takes a village to preserve the significant places, structures, sites and objects that tell the story of our communities. At every level of government, there are resources available to preserve and protect, but preservation has always been a local movement. The National Park Service provides many tools and programs at the federal level, and its partners in tribal, state and local governments augment these tools with more localized programs. Preservation will not happen, however, unless private citizens and organizations use these resources.

The goal of the Certified Local Government program is preservation through partnership: local, state and federal governments work together in the Federal Preservation program to help communities save the irreplaceable historic character of places. Through the certification process, communities make a local commitment to historic preservation. This commitment is key to America’s ability to preserve, protect and increase awareness of our unique cultural heritage found in the built environment across the country.

Jointly administered by the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Offices, each local community works through a certification process to become recognized as a Certified Local Government. Once certified, CLGs become an active partner in the Federal Historic Preservation program.

Each community gains access to benefits of the program and agrees to follow required federal and state requirements.

Community certification opens doors to funding, technical assistance and other preservation successes.

Funding: States receive annual appropriations from the Federal Historic Preservation Fund. States are required to give at least 10% of their funding to CLGs as subgrants.

These grants can fund a variety of projects, some of which are surveys, National Register nominations, rehabilitation work, design guidelines, educational programs, training, structural assessments and feasibility studies.

Technical assistance: As CLGs, communities have direct access to SHPO staff for assistance with their commission, building assessments, surveys and nominations and general preservation assistance. State staff and NPS offer regular training for CLGs as well, another benefit of the partnership.

Each SHPO has a designated CLG coordinator.

Sustainability: Historic preservation has proven to have economic, environmental and social benefits. Studies show that historic districts maintain higher property values, less population decline, more walkability and greater sense of community.

Being a CLG demonstrates a community’s commitment to saving what is important from the past for future generations.

As a certified community, it becomes easy to demonstrate a readiness to take on successful preservation projects, making a community able to compete for new opportunities.

Of the 30 CLGs in Arizona, three are located in Pinal County — Florence, Coolidge and Casa Grande.

The Arizona CLG training is held at the annual Arizona Historic Preservation Conference.

Plans are for the 2020 AZ Historic Preservation Conference to be held from June 16-18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 2100 S. Priest Drive in Tempe.

The annual Arizona Historic Preservation Conference brings together preservation advocates from across Arizona and the Southwest to exchange ideas and success stories, to share solutions and lessons learned and to foster cooperation among preservation stakeholders, policymakers, the business community and general public.


Bonnie Bariola is a board member and secretary of the Arizona Heritage Alliance.