This guidance is designed to help cultural resources professionals identify and evaluate historic landscapes, particularly those encountered in the course of conducting environmental studies to comply with the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulations, 36 CFR Part 800. The guidelines focus on recognizing, describing, and recording historic landscapes; evaluating them for eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places; assessing project effects; and treating eligible historic landscapes that may be wholly or partially included within a projectís designated Area of Potential Effects (APE). [For definitions of APE and other terms used in Section 106 compliance, please refer to 36 CFR 800.2.]

Historic landscapes can possess historical values coming from the full range of human history, including ethnography and traditional cultural values. This breadth of possibilities, differences in terms used among disciplines, and evolving guidance usage contribute to the potential for confusion over terminology. For example, while NPS usage now tends to prefer the word "cultural" over "historic" in referring to landscapes, published guidance documents generally use "historic landscapes." Also in guidance documents, the term "historic landscapes" is not restricted to the regulatory definition of historic as eligible for the National Register, but instead denotes any identifiable cultural landscape.

For consistency with existing published guidance, this document therefore follows the convention of using the term "historic landscapes" for the full range of cultural landscapes, including archeological resources, regardless of eligibility status. Also, the term "rural landscapes" is generally considered to embrace all vernacular landscapes, specifically as opposed to designed landscapes. Other terms may have context-specific meanings that can be confusing, so an effort has been made to avoid jargon where possible and to provide definitions as needed.

Historic landscapes are not a new property type but rather a method of organizing information about resources. They come under the existing National Register categories of either sites or districts. Landscape studies can be presented in existing report formats, accompanied by appropriate inventory forms for individual features such as buildings, structures, or sites that are present within the landscape.

Because the definition of historic landscape is broad and not always well understood, identification and evaluation of such properties must be made carefully, based on an appropriate level of research and analysis. A professional eye open to the possibility that historic landscapes might be present within a project area should suffice to identify the need for a landscape study. Then staff qualified in the appropriate discipline(s) should include a landscape study as part of the project survey work. Generally, historians, architectural historians, and archeologists should be competent to study landscapes within their fields of expertise. Other professionals, such as geographers, landscape architects, or landscape historians, should be consulted when needed.

The following guidance provides information on recognizing historic landscapes and on how to incorporate landscape studies into existing interdisciplinary cultural resources surveys.