National Trust For Historic Preservation Cites Apostle Islands As Prime Candidate for Innovative Approaches

November 2, 2018

One of the nation’s leading historic preservation organizations has identified the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to Congress as one of twelve National Park Service units that would benefit significantly through the use of historic leasing programs.

At a time when the historic resources in the national parks face threats from a severe maintenance backlog, the National Trust For Historic Preservation has recommended historic leasing as a key tool that can be used to help remedy the shortfall. Already shown to be successful in several NPS units, historic leasing programs are based on cooperative partnerships that authorize nonfederal organizations to manage historic properties for public benefit, and take care of their maintenance, freeing agency funds for use elsewhere. Partners can include historic preservation groups, educational institutions, and similar organizations, ensuring compliance with the NPS mission to preserve the sites for future generations and provide for their enjoyment by the public.

In a statement to the House Committee on Natural Resources on September 17, 2018, Tom Cassidy, NTHP Vice President of Government Relations and Policy, noted that National Trust representatives had visited the Apostle Islands and inspected several historically significant properties. He advised committee members that several of them had already benefited from community-based volunteer restoration efforts, undertaken without federal funding, while others were currently occupied under existing use-and-occupancy  agreements (“life leases”) and are currently well-maintained by the historic island families.

He continued, “Future historic leases or similar arrangements could be important tools to ensure these properties are maintained after the expiration of the use-and-occupancy rights, and before they become part of the maintenance backlog.”

The Apostle Islands National Historic Preservation Conservancy strongly supports the National Trust’s recommendations. Experience throughout the national park system has confirmed that well-designed historic leasing programs can reduce the maintenance burden on the National Park Service and ensure continuing public benefit.

Photo: Sand Island’s historic West Bay Lodge (1913) is currently unoccupied and is considered by many to be a prime candidate for leasing by a non-profit organization.