SEPA checklist guidance, Section B: Historic & cultural preservation

We provide guidance to help applicants complete the Historic & Cultural preservation section of the SEPA Section B: Environmental elements checklist.

13. Historic and Cultural Preservation


The cultural and historic resources of a community tell the story of its past — one that is distinct from all other places. From lumber mills to schools, sacred landscapes to archaeological sites, rustic cabins to office towers, these elements of the environment are unique non-renewable resources.

Federal, state, and local environmental laws and review processes typically require consideration be given to protecting significant historic, archaeological, and traditional cultural sites from damage or loss. The state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), local historic preservation organizations, and tribal governments work with agencies, private citizens, and developers to identify and develop protection strategies to protect Washington’s cultural heritage.

Compliance programs reviewed by tribal governments, and cultural resource agencies and private organizations:
  • Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act — The law requires federal agencies to consider cultural resources in their licensing, permitting, and funding decisions. Federal agencies consult with state and local governments to identify cultural resources and receive formal opinions about the cultural / historic significance of an affected area and probable impacts.
  • State Environmental Policy Act — State law requires agencies to consider impacts to cultural resources during the environmental review process. DAHP and others provide technical expertise and may issue formal opinions to local governments and other state agencies regarding project impacts.
  • Forest Practices Act — State forest practices rules set forest practice standards for timber harvest, pre-commercial thinning, road construction, fertilization, and forest chemical application activities. The rules help protect historic and cultural sites while maintaining a viable timber industry.
  • Governor's Executive Order 05-05 — This gubernatorial order requires all state agencies with capital improvement projects to integrate DAHP, the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, and tribal governments into their capital project planning process to protect historic and cultural sites.
  • State Shoreline Management Act — This state law requires local governments issuing development permits in areas with archaeological sites to have them inspected or evaluated by a professional archaeologist in partnership with affected tribal governments before development permits are issued.
 a. Are there any buildings, structures, or sites, located on or near the site that are over 45 years old listed in or eligible for listing in national, state, or local preservation registers located on or near the site? If so, specifically describe.

Applicants with projects affecting structures 45 years or older need to complete and submit an Historic Property Inventory form to DAHP. The agency may require more intensive investigation or impacts to structures be mitigated, depending on a building's historical significance.

 b. Are there any landmarks, features, or other evidence of Indian or historic use or occupation. This may include human burials or old cemeteries. Are there any material evidence, artifacts, or areas of cultural importance on or near the site? Please list any professional studies conducted at the site to identify such resources.

Historical and archaeological places include significant locations, structures, or other evidence containing material remains of human life or activity. They include places associated important historical personalities or sites where significant cultural or historic events have taken place — even when no physical evidence remains.

SEPA rules require environmental review decisions be based on sufficient information and that threshold determinations sufficiently evaluate a proposal's environmental impact. Describe the process for incorporating historic and archaeological research and surveys, tribal consultation, and data gathering. The reference "near the site" is not limited to "adjacent to the site" since associated impacts may extend beyond the boundaries of the project site.

c. Describe the methods used to assess the potential impacts to cultural and historic resources on or near the project site. Examples include consultation with tribes and the department of archeology and historic preservation, archaeological surveys, historic maps, GIS data, etc.

Each Indian Tribe is a sovereign nation with its own definition of appropriate consultation. However, here are some materials to assist with consultation efforts: Other tribal government resources: d. Proposed measures to avoid, minimize, or compensate for loss, changes to, and disturbance to resources. Please include plans for the above and any permits that may be required.

To adequately evaluate historic and cultural preservation impacts, applicants may need to search applicable databases and conduct resource surveys. A survey or other type of analysis is not usually a mitigation measure and a SEPA threshold document alone cannot impose conditions. Describe the measures to avoid, minimize, or counter deliberate impacts to historic structures or cultural resources. These might include:
  • Reviewing DAHP's recordation guidelines (if documentation is proposed to serve as a mitigation measure)
  • Avoidance with a modifying project
  • Maintaining or restoring the integrity of the site or landmark to the extent possible
  • Relocating the structure or artifact
  • Meeting tribal needs regarding the sanctity of a location
  • Require compliance with an Inadvertent Discovery Plan