Anticipating another hard budget fight in Congress, the National Trust for Historic Preservation yesterday announced "an aggressive campaign against current preservation policies" of the Reagan administration.
A statement released by the trust singled out the Department of the Interior as the special target of the campaign. According to the statement, high officials of the trust met last month with Interior Sectretary James G. Watt, who informed them that they should expect "zero funding" for national and state preservation programs in the department's budget for fiscal year 1983.
The trust and its allies won a similar fight last year, when the administration had proposed eliminating federal funds for state preservation programs. Matching funds of $4.6 million were proposed for the national organization. Congress eventually appropriated $21 million to the states and $4.4 million for the trust.
Michael L. Ainslie, president of the trust, also announced a $1 million reduction in current programs. This includes eliminating 21 full-time staff positions and curtailing education programs, as well as the indefinite closing of two major trust properties -- financier Jay Gould's Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., and Cliveden in Philadelphia, site of the Germantown battle during the Revolutionary War.
Two trust properties in Washington -- Decatur House and the Woodrow Wilson House -- were closed to daily visitors at the beginning of the year and will remain so until March.
"The public's interest in our historic heritage is being hurt by these cuts, not just the National Trust," Ainslie said. "Given the potential for using the new rehabilitation tax incentives, these cuts are especially painful." Last year preservationists persuaded Congress to include a new 25-percent investment tax credit for certified historic buildings in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, a program from which Ainslie and other preservation officials had expected significant results.
Most state preservation programs came into being after passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, and many remain heavily dependent upon annual grants from the Interior Department. "The National Register of Historic Places' nomination and tax certification processes are being seriously threatened by cutting off funds to the states," Ainslie said.