What are Certified Local Governments?

Certified Local Government Program (CLG)

Certified Local Governments take the process of historic preservation down to the local level. CLGs look after history at the town and county level.

The Certified Local Government, or CLG system, is a project of the National Park System. CLGs are set up in conjunction with the State Historical Preservation Office (usually abbreviated to SHPO). The 1966 National Historic Preservation Act mandated the creation of SHPOs and the National Register of Historic Places; the 1980 Historic Preservation Act set the scene for an extension of this partnership to the local, grass-roots level – hence, Certified Local Governments.

Each state’s preservation office designates properties to the National Register of Historic Places and any state registers, and often runs state-wide historical marker systems, too. The CLGs are another tier in the system of historic preservation, allowing local governments to take part in well-organized historic planning.

In general, to achieve CLG status, a government must work with the SHPO to create a comprehensive historic preservation plan. This might mean the creation of historical marker systems, walking tours, or designating official landmarks.

Advantages in Historic Preservation Enjoyed by Certified Local Governments

Once certification is gained, the CLG can bid for a share of at least 10% of funds made available by the SHPO.

CLGs also receive historic preservation expertise. They can work with the professionals in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, federal Preserve America, and various other groups. Having done the legwork to gain accreditation, Certified Local Governments simply have more credibility when they set out on preservation projects.

According to the CLG page on the National Park Service website, there were 1,717 Certified Local Governments as of October, 2009.

How Certified Local Governments Start Their Path to Historic Preservation

The first step in the CLG application is to contact the SHPO, since each state has different procedures. However, the basic criteria for acceptance require the government to enforce existing preservation laws; make historic preservation activities available to the public; and work with the SHPO to create procedures and an ongoing inventory of historic resources.

Note that an inventory is not necessarily the same as a historic landmark register: it is usually a list of all resources, while a landmark register sets up criteria which must be met before inclusion on the register. CLGs may set up both kinds of lists.

Once the application is accepted, the CLG must usually agree to carry out its agreed-upon historic preservation duties, submit an annual report, and agree to a reassessment at least once every four years. The sample Missouri application on the National Park System’s CLG page gives some sense of what kinds of requirements might be included in a CLG application, including specifics of the CLG board and its members’ qualifications.

Using Certified Local Governments to Find Historical Markers and Landmarks

Landmark-hunters interested in finding well-preserved historic locations could do worse than explore city and museum home pages for CLGs. There is a full list on the NPS website. It is often worth simply showing up in these locations, checking in with the chamber of commerce or museum for a walking tour, and wandering around.

Cities with Certified Local Governments take pride in their history. Part of their historic preservation plan often includes the setting up of plaques and walking tours for the enjoyment of visitors and locals. Thus, knowledge of where CLGs may be found is a useful tool for anyone who wants to find well-preserved, fascinating locations, sometimes well off the beaten track.