Book Review: Historic Preservation Law in a Nutshell

Posted on: September 16th, 2014 by Special Contributor


By Caitlin C. Fitzsimons

nutshellimageSara C. Bronin and Ryan Rowberry’s Historic Preservation Law in a Nutshell (West Academic Publishing 2014) is a comprehensive resource for law students, attorneys, historic preservation law enthusiasts, and many more. Part of West Academic Publishing’s extensive “Nutshell Series” (or “Nutshells,” as law students affectionately call them), the study guide serves as an excellent companion to any law school course in historic preservation law as well as a summer legal internship in historic preservation law.

Like its fellow Nutshells, Historic Preservation Law in a Nutshell outlines the major case law and statutes in the historic preservation law field and presents the material in a clear and concise discussion that facilitates the connections law students make in reading their casebooks. Bronin and Rowberry walk their reader through the intricacies of the three foundational, federal laws governing historic preservation in the United States, namely the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. The authors also contemplate local regulation of historic preservation at the state, county, and town levels via historic preservation ordinances, which vary widely across the country. After surveying historic preservation law statutes and supplementing their discussion with relevant case law, Bronin and Rowberry move to federal constitutional constraints on historic preservation law, including the police power, due process, takings, religious liberty, and free speech. The second half of the Nutshell explores subtopics in historic preservation law including architectural protections for antiquities and abandoned shipwrecks, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the federal and state rehabilitation tax credits. The authors conclude their study guide with a consideration of international preservation, highlighting the 1954 Hague Convention and 1970 and 1972 UNESCO Conventions.... Read More →

Proposed Tower Threatens Palisades

Posted on: April 18th, 2014 by Will Cook 2 Comments


Palisades – Aerial View

Aerial view of the Palisades looking north.| Courtesy of Protect the Palisades

Preservationists often rely on local height ordinances and federal designations as a first line of defense in the protection of historic resources. Sometimes these legal mechanisms work. However, this reliance is sometimes misplaced, especially when local governments grant zoning variances and refuse to consider the effect of these variances on adjacent historic resources, even if the resource is nationally significant. Such is the threat facing the pristine cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades, a National Historic Landmark and National Natural Monument that have been successfully preserved for more than a century.

Recognizing the threat posed to the integrity of the Palisades National Historic Landmark by a proposed office tower, the National Trust recently joined forces with a coalition of preservation and conservation groups in filing an amicus curiae brief in the New Jersey Court of Appeals on April 4.1 The coalition includes the Preservation League of New York State, among others. A copy of the amicus brief is available here.... Read More →

About Will Cook

Will Cook is an associate general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Standing Law: Keeping the Courthouse Doors Open to Preservation Issues

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 by Sharee Williamson


Blair Mountain in West Virginia, site of the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. history, with the potential to be developed as a heritage tourism destination, would be obliterated by strip mining. | Credit: Harvard Ayers

Blair Mountain in West Virginia, site of the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. history, with the potential to be developed as a heritage tourism destination, would be obliterated by strip mining. | Credit: Harvard Ayers

Over the past few decades, standing decisions have increasingly hindered the ability to bring preservation issues into court. The National Trust has been involved in a number of standing cases over the years, including the recent state court litigation regarding cruise ship impacts in Charleston, S.C., and a case currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia regarding the de-listing of Blair Mountain from the National Register.

Blair Mountain in West Virginia served as the site of an unprecedented battle between American coal miners and mine owners in the 1920s. Today, the site is threatened by mountaintop removal mining. This method of mining would destroy valuable historic artifacts that have never been adequately surveyed or studied, as well as obliterate the landscape where the battle took place. In recognition of the site’s national significance, the National Park Service (NPS) listed Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places, but then de-listed it months later, after a re-count of property owner objections was made at the urging of mining interests. The National Register listing had given the site an important increase in recognition and protection, because of the fact that federal coal mining laws are unique in providing additional protection to National Register-listed sites, as opposed to sites that are merely eligible for the National Register. Thus, the decision to de-list the property made it vulnerable again.... Read More →

About Sharee Williamson

Sharee Williamson is an Associate General Counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.