Track 1: Effects of Climate Change in Warm Weather Coastal Regions
Historic communities are under threat from a variety of environmental and climate-related hazards: flood, extreme temperature changes, rising seas, more frequent and intense storms, among others. These same communities are also under a variety of internal threats as well, predominantly the inability of preservationists to tap into the existing network of practitioners who work to protect communities from natural hazards and a hesitancy to work within existing hazard mitigation frameworks to extend protection to cultural resources. This reticence is due to a combination of factors. Many government agencies are siloed and communication across departments is sporadic and project-specific. Understanding where historic preservation fits into hazard mitigation, climate resiliency, and disaster response and recovery is convoluted and can be difficult to navigate for those unfamiliar with emergency management. Involvement in hazard mitigation and community resiliency also requires learning new jargon and new disciplines and being able to communicate the importance of cultural resource both clearly and concisely. Communication has ever been the bane of the preservationist’s existence. Explaining “integrity” and “historic context” to laymen is difficult and common terms like “mitigation” mean different things in historic preservation and emergency management. Further, preservationists must learn to become more flexible in changes allowed to cultural resources if those resources are to survive the next century. The lack of guidance from the federal government regarding how to address adapting cultural resources to withstand the effects of environmental and climate-related hazards leaves state and local government frozen with no path forward to protecting their important historic places.
These barriers are not insurmountable, but they require that preservationists take a proactive approach to hazard mitigation/climate adaptation and disaster response and recovery, rather than the traditionally reactive approach of responding through compliance with Section 106. States like Maryland, New Jersey, and Florida are breaking these barriers by developing programs and guidance that address how to integrate cultural resources into existing mechanisms for hazard mitigation/climate adaptation and response and recovery operations in ways that balance preservation and protection. Key to this integration of disciplines, is the cultivation of relationships with nontraditional preservation partners such as emergency managers and floodplain administrators. Successfully developing and maintaining those relationships is based on the willingness of preservationists to learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program, floodplain management, other natural hazards that impact your jurisdiction, disaster response, and hazard mitigation planning. Nor is it enough to learn about other disciplines, but to take that knowledge and use it to develop guidance to pass this knowledge to the local jurisdictions to aid them in protecting their cultural resources and to leverage this knowledge to become a contributor to the planning processes that happen around natural hazards and climate change.