Written by Greg Seymour
This session the Nevada legislature was able to pass SB 257, which increases penalties for graffiti at “protected sites” on public and private property. Passing overwhelmingly in both the Senate and Assembly and signed by Governor Sandoval on June 10, 2011, it is effective October 1. Senator Valerie Weiner, District 3, (Las Vegas area) was the author of this bill.
The legislation creates new protections for a wide variety of the historic resources unique to Nevada, including:
"A site, landmark, monument, building or structure of historical significance pertaining to the history of the settlement of Nevada; Any Indian campgrounds, shelters, petroglyphs, pictographs and burials; or Any archeological or paleontological site, ruin, deposit, fossilized footprints and other impressions, petroglyphs and pictographs, habitation caves, rock shelters, natural caves, burial ground or sites of religious or cultural importance to an Indian Tribe. (SB 257)"
It makes destructive acts a felony if the site is protected. Dollar thresholds for damage for this offense dropped from $5,000 to $500 in order to ensure that even small acts of vandalism are cover under this new law. Penalties can include with a 10 day mandatory jail stay with probation, restitution, up to 300 hours of community service, and substantial jail time.
This new law helps protect our state’s cultural resources on public and private property with similar protections that federal laws afforded us for resources on lands under the US government’s oversight. Similar legislation at the federal level, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, provides penalties for cultural resources over 100 years old on federal lands. Resources not meeting that age threshold are subject federal vandalism laws. Now private property rights are strengthened through enhanced legal and civil penalties. The property owner would have the option of pressing charges.
For many of us, the allure of Nevada is imbued in its rural places. Our collective history is long and rich and can be seen in its many ranches and mining sites, some long abandoned. Prehistoric rock art can also be enjoyed as art, as history, or both. One cannot help to wonder about how difficult it must have been to survive especially during those below zero winters in the Great Basin or the above 100⁰ summers in the Mojave Desert. Our predecessors ranched, farmed, worked and grew families and made decisions which still influence our vision of what Nevada has been and what we will be. For a more urban view, mid-century modern architecture can act as an anchor for revitalization based on historic preservation combined with fun and funky shops, cafes, and bars. These special places can help us understand our collective heritage.
Heritage tourism brings in outside dollars providing employment across the state. Millions of dollars annually are spent at parks, museums, hotels, restaurants, stores and casinos by visitors to our historic and scenic sites. Did you know that Nevada is home to the Great Basin National Heritage Area? If you don’t believe me, just ask them about heritage dollars in Nevada. These are example of Nevada’s special places where heritage resources deserve our patronage and protection.
Turns out good things can happen despite our current hard economic times. Good Job Nevada!
Greg Seymour has more than 25 years of experience in CRM archaeology and historic preservation. He holds positions on various boards and professional organizations, including Preserve Nevada, Nevada Archaeological Association, Nevada Coordinator for Preservation Action, and as the Nevada Advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.