Volume 7, Number 1, Jan. 1985, pp.3-4

The California Heritage Task Force Report

by Ronald Tobey

The Report of the California Heritage Task Force recommends important changes in the conduct of state-funded conservation activity. The report calls for a stronger and more active role by the state government in preservation generally. Such a role almost certainly would have a general impact on professional conservation in the West, as well as in California, because California contains a center of conservation activity in the Western United States and because California sets an example to other state governments.

The California state legislature authorized the formation of the California State Task Force in 1981 for the purpose of developing "a practical, yet far-reaching and comprehensive set of policies and programs for the State's cultural heritage resources." [Page two.] Under the chairmanship of Roger Holt, the Task Force interviewed persons involved in preservation, commissioned studies and surveys, and held public hearings. The Task Force released the report in August 1984 and the report will guide the writing of legislation on cultural resource management during the current session of the State Assembly, just getting underway.

While the Task Force addresses a wide range of topics and issues in preservation, from state interagency relations to school curricula, recommendations will affect professional conservation particularly in three aspects. First, the recommendations call for a new public policy context for all conservation activity in California. Second, the state government will lead conservation in the private sector to change their professional standards. Third, as a result of new state policies, private and public conservationists will probably desire to develop closer relations with large universities, such as the University of California.

The major Task Force recommendation for a highly developed, centrally administered and activist state cultivation of California's cultural resources should increase the economic value of historic and cultural resources. Naturally, raising the value of these resources will increase the economic incentive for their conservation, which will in turn stimulate professional conservation activity. If put into place, therefore, this new state policy would spotlight conservation. As a harbinger of things to come, the Task Force recommends new procedures for state contracts for conservation.

One effect of an enhanced state interest in the conduct of conservation, concerns professionalism of conservationists. State contracting procedures certainly will further "bureaucratize" conservation activity in a manner that places a premium on professional school training and certifiable standards.

Finally, emphasis on training of conservationists and on research in conservation proposals and plans should increase the reliance of the conservation profession on the large universities. The universities are our society's major resources for basic research and disciplinary training, and in California the University of California has mandated responsibility for advanced training in the regulated professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. It would be natural for conservationists to turn to universities such as UC Riverside, which has graduate training and research in conservation science, for resources to respond to challenges the state will place before them.

While a lengthy political process lies ahead before these recommendations are enacted (and the form of their enactment will certainly be altered by this process), the Task Force report deserves careful study and discussion by conservationists and by preservationists in general.

California Heritage Task Force, Roger J. Holt, Chairperson.

California Heritage Task Force, A Report to the legislature and People of California, Sacramento, August 1984. pp.122.

Copies may be obtained by writing to the State Office of Historic Preservation, P.O.Box 2390, Sacramento, CA 95811.

Ronald Tobey
Program of Historic Resources Management,
Department of History,
University of California,

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