Regarding the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Section 106 Review of The Center for the High Desert: A Dynamic New Space for Dialogue, Engagement, and Learning in the High Desert
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has offered the High Desert Museum, in Bend, Oregon, an Infrastructure and Capacity Building grant (CHA-276815) to create design schematics and cost estimates for a new museum wing, the Center for the High Desert, which would include a new gallery, five classrooms, flexible spaces, and an event area for expanded humanities programming at the museum.
NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. This public notice is issued as part of NEH’s responsibilities under 36 C.F.R. Part 800, the regulations which implement Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, 54 U.S.C. 306108. NEH, a funding agency, is required by regulation to identify and assess the effects of any proposed actions on historic properties. If any proposed action will have an adverse effect on historic resources, NEH works with the appropriate parties to seek ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects. Additionally, the Section 106 regulations require NEH to consider the views of the public on preservation issues when making final decisions that affect historic properties.
This project involves the addition of a new wing for the Center for the High Desert to the High Desert Museum’s main building. The original building was constructed in 1982 and was expanded in subsequent years, including an education center in 1984; a new wing in 1988; a hall in 1999; and a center in 2001. Currently the museum consists of a total of 91,700 square feet, including the main building, the Autzen Otter Exhibit, and the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. The museum also has a non-enclosed Changing Forest exhibit; living history ranch with a barn, ranch house, sawmill, and woodshop; and several support structures, including a maintenance building, two storage buildings and a mews to house birds of prey. The height of the main building varies and has a maximum height of 24-feet. The NEH Challenge Grant will support design and construction documents for a new wing that will include a gallery space, classrooms, and flexible event space and a gravel parking lot. This wing will involve ground disturbance of less than 2 acres. The High Desert Museum has stated the site and scale of the addition will be consistent with the current main building and will be used for consistent purposes of the museum’s current site. The property is adjacent to private property and forest service lands. The addition will not change the visual impact of any existing viewpoints.
On December 9, 2022, Jessica Gabriel of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) sent a letter to High Desert Museum stating they concur the property at 59800 South Hwy 97 is not eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places due to its construction date of 1982.
NEH invited three Tribal governments with historical ties to the area to be consulting parties to help identify historic properties in the project area that may have religious and cultural significance, including archaeological sites, burial grounds, sacred landscapes or features, ceremonial areas, traditional cultural places and landscapes, plant and animal communities, and buildings and structures with significant tribal association. The Tribal governments are: Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederal Tribes of Siletz Indians, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Only the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde responded, deferring to other Tribes that have primacy in the area. The other two Tribal governments did not respond.
Based on the review and consultation, NEH has determined that the project will have no adverse effect.
As required by Section 106, NEH is providing the public with information about this project, as well as an opportunity to comment on any knowledge of, or concerns with, historic properties in the proposed project area, and issues relating to the project’s potential effects on historic properties. Comments may be submitted to the NEH by e-mail to FPO@neh.gov. The deadline for submitting comments is Friday, March 24, 2023.