Montana Historical Society

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Review and Compliance / Consulting with SHPO

Thank you for your careful consideration of Montana's cultural resources.

The Montana State Historic Preservation office provides assistance to private citizens, local governments, private organizations, and both State and Federal Government Agencies partaking in projects subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and Montana State Antiquities Act.

MT SHPO consults on projects subject to historic preservation laws to ensure federal and state projects do not carelessly destroy cultural resources. Projects include landscape modification (e.g., logging, mining, prescribed burns), construction, rehabilitation, demolition, licenses, permits, transfer of federal property, etc.

Any undertaking on Federal Land, using Federal funds, or requiring a Federal permit must comply with Section 106 of the NHPA. Any project on State Land must comply with the Montana State Antiquity Act.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Section 106 is the portion of the National Historic Preservation Act where Federal Agencies are required to take into account, during the planning process, the effects of their actions on Historic Properties and to afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment on that agency consideration. Federal Agencies, then, are required by law to take steps to identify Historic Properties which may be affected by their actions and to follow procedures to minimize or avoid effects. To learn more about Section 106 or how to consult with the Montana SHPO please see our Guidelines and Procedures planning bulletin.

Cell tower construction may have visual impacts on historic resources and may effect archaeological sites. FCC licenses and certifications for cell towers are federal actions subject to compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Click here for the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau's "Learning Unit" which will assist interested parties in understanding the National Programmatic Agreement for Review of Effects on Historic Properties, or view the Montana SHPO Guidelines for cell tower review.

An undertaking means a project, activity, or program funded in whole or in part under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of a Federal agency. Undertakings requiring consideration under the National Historic Preservation Act are: (A) those carried out by or on behalf of the agency; (B) those carried out with Federal Financial assistance; (C) those requiring a Federal permit, license, or approval; and (D) those subject to State or local regulation administered pursuant to a delegation or approval by a Federal agency.
In 1966, Congress enacted the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which declared that
the preservation of our Nation's irreplaceable heritage was in the public's interest. The NHPA
called upon federal agencies to expand and accelerate preservation activities in a spirit of
stewardship and partnership with American Indian tribes, the public, state and local
governments, and other interested parties. The NHPA also established several institutions: the
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the State Historic Preservation Offices
(SHPOs), the National Register of Historic Places (National Register), and the Section 106
review process.

The Section 106 review process (often referred to as "compliance") can be understood as a set of four (4) sequential steps of identification, assessment, and evaluation carried out by agencies in consultation with the SHPO and others:

1) Initiate Consultation Process, define the Undertaking and Area of Potential Effect (APE)
2) Identify Historic Properties in the APE
3) Assess Adverse Effects
4) Resolve Adverse Effects.

Although 36 CFR Part 800 differentiates between the steps, steps may overlap in practical
application. For example, some agencies combine the identification and effect assessment steps (Steps 2 & 3). This is often done by conducting cultural resource surveys (the physical search for and recording of cultural resources) and submitting an inventory report (a compilation of information resulting from field survey, records or archival research, oral interviews, and other information about cultural resources in the area of concern) to the SHPO along with the federal agency’s determinations about the significance of identified sites and possible impacts of the undertaking.

Each step must be completed for all historic properties before formally moving to the next step. (Programmatic Agreement may allow exceptions). For example, the SHPO is unable to concur with an effect finding (the overall or comprehensive effect of an action or decision) until the resolution of the Eligibility of all cultural resources and the impact on all eligible properties that are not avoided. Impacts to each historic property are considered in a comprehensive effect assessment, which takes into account the total effect of the undertaking on all historic properties in the subject area. As the regulations highlight at 36 CFR 800.3(g), these sequential steps are also intended to provide consulting parties and the public adequate time to review and comment at specified and known points in the Section 106 review process.

Federal agencies rather than applicants or consultants are responsible for consulting with the
SHPO on all undertakings assisted, funded, undertaken, permitted, or licensed by the lead federal agency. In some instances, however, the lead federal agency delegates some or all of the Section 106 review process to the recipient (applicant) of the funding, license, or permit. Blanket Delegations of Authority—where the federal agency delegates the entire Section 106 review process to the applicant—are typically only used by non-land managing federal agencies (e.g. the Rural Utilities Service and the Federal Communications Commission). When a federal agency has formally delegated some or all of its responsibilities under Section 106, it retains legal accountability and is required to make an effort to resolve any disagreements that might arise. A federal agency must have a previous agreement in place with the ACHP and SHPO prior to utilizing a Blanket Delegation of Authority.

In order to ensure that the project will not be unnecessarily delayed, it is important that applicants ask agencies whether they or the agency will initiate consultation with the SHPO. In order to avoid confusion, federal agencies should notify the SHPO as early as possible when
forming such agreements

Compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) does not guarantee
compliance under Section 106 of the NHPA. While certain federal agency responsibilities are
related in purpose under both laws, there are differences in scope and procedure. For example, many actions that qualify as Categorical Exclusions (CEs) under NEPA require further review under Section 106. Moreover, an adverse effect under the NHPA may not require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA. The goal of the Section 106 review process is for federal agencies to identify historic properties potentially affected by a proposed undertaking, assess the effects of the undertaking, and seek ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects. The initiation of the Section 106 review process should occur early in project planning and in advance of a federal agency making binding decisions regarding the location, design, and siting of a project. By statute, the Section 106 requirements must be met prior to a federal agency approving the expenditure of funds on an undertaking (other than funds for non-destructive planning) or prior to issuance of a license, permit, or approval needed by the undertaking. Further, an agency must complete the NEPA and Section 106 review before signing a decision document. The NEPA review may conclude with a CE, a FONSI, or a ROD. Under the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) regulations, CEs, EAs, FONSIs, and EISs are not decision documents. Agencies should avoid issuing NEPA documents that present a final agency decision before they have completed the Section 106 review process, because the Section 106 process may result in a finding that requires the NEPA document to be revised or supplemented (NEPA and NHPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106).

If a federal agency is unable to complete eligibility and effect determinations for the entire APE prior to the release of a FONSI or ROD, the ACHP regulations recognize a phased application of the Section 106 review process as an alternative option (36 CFR Part 800.4(b)(2) and 800.5(a)(3)). A project-specific PA detailing the agreed-upon measures for phased identification, evaluation, and effect findings must be completed prior to the signing and release of a decision document.

While NEPA and Section 106 of the NHPA are separate laws, federal agencies are encouraged to coordinate the processes. The ACHP’s regulations concerning NHPA-NEPA coordination,
integration, and substitution requirements are found at 36 CFR Part 800.8 and 800.14. If a
federal agency wishes to substitute the NEPA process for the purposes of Section 106, the
federal agency must notify the ACHP and SHPO in advance and follow the standards set out in
36 CFR 800.8(c). Coordination of Section 106 and NEPA may also raise concerns regarding
public disclosure or release of sensitive information. Please see the confidentiality
subsection for more information on this critical concern. Further information is available in
the NHPA and NEPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106 published by the CEQ
and the ACHP.

It is possible for a federal agency to customize or expedite the Section 106 review process by
entering into a Programmatic Agreement (PA) with the ACHP and SHPO. Use of these
agreements may alter the standard Section 106 review and consultation process outlined in 36
CFR Part 800. There are several types of PAs including: (1) PAs for general federal agency
programs, (2) project-specific PAs for complex, long-term undertakings, and (3) property-specific PAs for cultural resources with which a federal agency consistently interacts. PAs are
most useful for considering the effects of routine and repetitive undertakings in a broad temporal or spatial approach, or where administrative decisions which may affect historic properties will be made before all historic properties in an APE can be identified and evaluated, or before possible effects can be assessed.

Examples of current PAs include those with local communities regarding CDBG grants and
rehabilitation programs; with individual National Forests regarding trails and logging properties;
with the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) regarding historic irrigation ditches,
roads and bridges; and with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) regarding cabin leases. There are
also more general Programmatic Agreements with the USDA Forest Service Northern Region
(USFS) and with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that modify the standard Section 106
review process to more appropriately address organization and management needs.
The ACHP regulations providing for such alternative programs are found at 36 CFR Part 800.14,
and guidance on preparing such agreements can be found in the ACHP's Preparing Agreement


A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation)

Archaeology Guidance (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation)

Regulations: Protection of Historic Properties  (36 C.F.R. Part 800) (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation)  

A Citizen's Guide to Montana Historic Preservation Law: Finding Your Voice   (Explanation of Section 106 You Tube video)

NEPA/NHPA Integration Guidance 
(Appendix G.2: Consulting with Montana SHPO, 2023) 

Whether or not the ACHP becomes involved in consultation, you may contact the ACHP to express your views or to request guidance, advice, or technical assistance. Regardless of the scale of the project or the magnitude of its effects, the ACHP is available to assist with dispute resolution and to advise on the Section 106 review process for Federal undertakings.

If you suspect Federal involvement, but have been unable to verify it, or if you believe the Federal agency or one of the other participants in review (including the Montana SHPO) has not fulfilled its responsibilities under the Section 106 regulations, you can ask the ACHP to investigate. In either case, be as specific as possible and try to have the following information available:

  • the name of the responsible Federal agency and how it is involved
  • a description of the project
  • the historic properties involved
  • a clear statement of your concerns about the project and its effect on historic properties

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
401 F Street NW, Suite 308
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 517-0200  |  Email:  |  Website:


Samantha Gilk (
Review and Compliance Officer
(406) 444-6485

Jessica Bush (
State Archaeologist
(406) 444-0388

Lindsay Tran (
Historic Architecture Specialist
(406) 444-7717

Damon Murdo (
Cultural Records Manager
(406) 444-7767