You have the vantage point of not only steering the [National Historic Preservation Act] legislation through, but being director long enough to see the implementation.
That was the crux of it. I was there long enough, fortunately, to give it structure so that I left it exactly as I wanted. Now, I don’t know what’s happened to it since. What I do know firsthand is that President Carter sent it all over to the BOR [Bureau of Outdoor Recreation] and reconstituted that. The bureau messed up a lot of peoples’ lives and a lot of programs.
When you had a chance to see the implementation of the [National Historic Preservation Act], was there anything that surprised you? It’s one thing to draft legislation, to believe in that legislation, to steer it through. But sometimes there are effects from that legislation that simply can’t be anticipated. Did you experience anything like that? Do you think the full impact on the Park Service was clear to you?
I don’t think we fully understood the importance of money and matching grants when we started doing it. We had the example of BOR and the Land and Water Conservation Fund,37 but this was a brand-new program. There’d never been anything like it, matching private funds. What we did with the Historic Preservation program of 1966 is that we reached out to use that money for matching private money, which gave it a whole new dimension that I don’t think and I don’t think anybody else in the Park Service had any comprehension of what it meant when you started reaching out and touching private people with matching money. I mean, you just open up a whole Pandora’s [box] of power.
I didn’t look on it as an impediment. I looked on it as an opportunity, because you’ve got powerful people involved in it. You’ve got a lot of rich dowagers who had property that they were directing to the National Trust, because that’s where you could get the public money to match their private money. So I think that’s the most significant part of what I didn’t understand. I don’t think there was much question that I relied on the help of Ronnie Lee, Herb Kahler, and Bill Everhart. I reckon we had a guy named John Corbett who was an archeologist. There were five or six of you guys?
W.E.– Don’t ask for names.
G.H.– I had the talent right there. We had already put the talent together before we got the authority. So we had the talent and we had the experience, all of which fed into dealing with as to how we were going to organize it and everything else, because it did substantially change the structure of the Park Service, wouldn’t you say, the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation?
W.E.– The emphasis.
I’d like to hear more about that from either of you. It sounds like you viewed the legislation as opportunity rather than being concerned with the restrictions that it placed on the Park Service.
I always looked on legislation …
… as opportunity?
Yes. The neatest trick in town is legislation, something very worthwhile.… and it’s worth the effort.
Well, what about your take on the implementation of the legislation [National Historic Preservation Act], Mr. Everhart?
Yes, I’d rather you ask Bill. I’m telling you what I thought, but he can tell you how it was done. He saw it.
W.E.– Well, of course, history [the inclusion of historic sites] came to the Park Service late. The original emphasis was on natural history, and everything was there until the changeover under [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt, so that most people who worked in the natural areas thought that they were much more important than the historical areas. Of course, the new historical areas tended to be small and peoples’ interest in them [different]; peoples’ response to the Grand Canyon was one thing and to a Civil War battlefield another. So that it really took a lot of doing for the Park Service to begin to believe that historical parks were on the same level as the natural parks.
And some would argue that still happens.
W.E.– With good cause, because still “the great western parks,” that used to always be the description, they were thought to be our greatest. So I think this was one of the steps along the way to give history some recognition and support inside the Park Service itself, as well as outside the Park Service. And when you’re a park superintendent in the historical parks, you look at it one way. If you’re a superintendent of a great western park, you look at it another way.
So the implementation you were talking about sort of changed the balance [between natural and cultural parks]?
W.E.– Well, it moved it. It changed it, but it took a lot of time for the Park Service, inside the Park Service as well as outside, to get the impetus. Now it’s almost going the other way. All kinds of parks are now coming along and people are pushing the protection of particularly Civil War areas in this area and so forth.
G.H.– Well, you see, at that time, too, we hadn’t yet finished [with natural resources] because the Leopold Report had really reoriented the natural history areas, and in addition to which Starker Leopold had agreed to come aboard as our chief scientist. So the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 gave us an opportunity, as Bill says, to elevate history to the equal status of natural history. I think that was the first opportunity that the Park Service had had to do that since Horace [Albright] got the historic parks from the army in 1933. Don’t you think, [Bill]?
W.E.– He [Albright] gave it a nudge.
G.H.– And that brought about a reorganization of the cultural resource program into a very powerful unit.
W.E.– I think that while Utley was here—you know, Bob Utley left the Park Service, and one of the reasons he left was he still didn’t think that the people in the Park Service were giving history the emphasis that it needed.
G.H.– Well, when they got it [the historic preservation functions] back from BOR, I don’t think they did. I don’t think it [historic preservation] has it [emphasis] today. Do you? I don’t think they ever recovered from that [transfer to BOR].
Would you tell me what you’re referring to specifically?
I think the emphasis [was] on rangers and the George Wright Society and the natural history. I don’t think the cultural resource program ever caught up after that setback they got from going to the BOR. I don’t think they had any director who was interested in correcting that imbalance, because, I mean, all they did with those talented people they got back from BOR was disperse them. A lot of rich talent was just totally mis-assigned. Some parks that had no assistant superintendent got an assistant superintendent. He didn’t know a damn thing about parks. He was a planner. Maybe he’d been working on the national recreation plan. And parks that had one assistant superintendent got two more. Olympic [National Park], for example, wound up with three assistant superintendents. What they needed were rangers.