Landscapes

Do You Know How to Visit Archaeological Sites With Respect?

Posted on: July 28th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Dr. Rebecca Schwendler

Do your travel plans include exploring archaeological ruins in the West? If so, please watch this informative video.

Produced by the San Juan Mountains Association and the Bureau of Land Management Anasazi Heritage Center with a grant from the Colorado Historical Society, the video features five Native Americans of different generations and affiliations (the pueblos of Santa Clara and Acoma in New Mexico and the Hopi Tribe in Arizona) talking about their connections to prehistoric ruins and ways that we can visit them appropriately.

As a professional archaeologist and the public lands advocate for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I want to spread the word that we all have a part in preserving our country’s amazing archaeological, historical, and cultural places – whether they were created by our ancestors or someone else’s. While I find that most visitors are thoughtful and responsible, even well-meaning people can cause damage if they don’t know how to visit with respect.

So, how does one visit with respect? Here are some tips:

1 – Notice where artifacts and rock art are located in relation to one another and the surrounding landscape. Look for spatial patterns in materials, object types, and colors, but leave the artifacts in place and the rock art untouched. Artifacts and art are like pieces of a puzzle; if you move, remove, or damage them, you create a false and incomplete picture of the past and disrespect the people who made them.

2 – Observe structures from different angles and appreciate their materials and forms, but never climb on walls or into structures or pits unless a sign invites you to do so. Even if you don’t appear to be harming the structures, the cumulative effect of many people doing the same thing will. You don’t want to be that person who helps destroy things so that others can’t enjoy them, do you?

3 – Stick to designated trails to get the best views without damaging natural and cultural resources. Pretend you’re visiting your grandmother’s house - steer clear of those flower beds and don’t throw rocks in her pool!

At the end of the day, visiting archaeological sites (and any historic place for that matter) with respect means imagining the people who created the place, going slow, being observant, appreciating the location, and leaving things exactly as you find them. Always treat these special places as you would want others to treat your belongings and favorite hang outs.

We all need to run wild sometimes, just not in our precious and often fragile archaeological sites.

Rebecca Schwendler, Ph.D., is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s public lands advocate. She is stationed in the Mountains/Plains Regional Office.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Toward a Grander Casa Grande

Posted on: July 22nd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Andy Laurenzi

NTHP_blog_CGRNM_2

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (CGRNM) in Coolidge, Arizona, is among the state’s best-known cultural landmarks because of its striking “Great House,” one of the largest-known prehistoric structures in the United States. Established as the first archaeological reserve by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892, CGRNM is not only the largest protected Hohokam site, but also the sole National Park unit that preserves and interprets Hohokam culture. The area enclosed within the park’s current boundary also preserves some of the once-extensive village associated with the impressive adobe structure.

As the Center for Desert Archaeology’s Field Representative, I am working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, City of Coolidge, Town of Florence, Friends of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Pinal County Historical Society, and others in support of a National Park Service (NPS) proposal to expand the boundaries of this unique monument. In fact, our local partnership recommends an even more expansive vision that would preserve a significant portion of this vanishing cultural landscape.

Between A.D. 300 and 1450, people known to archaeologists as the Hohokam lived and farmed in the river valleys of southern Arizona. Over time, they built and maintained irrigation canal systems to support agricultural production. At least two dozen systems that watered tens of thousands of acres have been documented in the Phoenix area alone, along the lower Salt River and the middle Gila River. Villages containing about 200 to 400 people—sometimes as many as 1,000—stood every two to three miles along the canal systems.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

Courtesy of the National Park Service

These strings of neighboring villages formed irrigation communities. The settlement at CGRNM was one of five large villages along the Casa Grande Canal, which ran along the south side of the Gila River. Adamsville Ruin, about five miles upstream, is another large village in that community. A shorter canal, the Escalante Canal, ran north of the Gila River. This northern irrigation community included the sites of Escalante Ruin and Poston Butte Ruin.

In keeping with its mission to preserve, interpret, and educate the public about CGRNM, the NPS is proposing to bring more of the original village, part of the Casa Grande Canal, and a significant portion of the Adamsville Ruin within its boundaries—and thus within NPS’s ability to protect those resources. Possible additions include an interpretive trail between CGRNM and Adamsville Ruin, which would give visitors a better sense of the Hohokam landscape and ease of interaction between neighboring villages in an irrigation community.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Conservation Sites in the West Threatened by Urban Growth

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Ti Hays

Ironwood Forest National Monument (Photo: BLM)

Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona (Photo: BLM)

In March, preservationists and conservationists cheered when President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which includes statutory recognition for the National Landscape Conservation System. Overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Conservation System contains about 27 million acres of federal land set aside for the protection of cultural and natural resources by previous Congresses and former presidents.

However, a report released last week by the Sonoran Institute examining the effects of urban growth on the Conservation System tempers somewhat our enthusiasm over this recent legislative success. According to the report, urban centers in the West—in particular, Phoenix and Las Vegas—are rapidly swallowing up the areas that once buffered Conservation System units from development. In some cases, as at Ironwood Forest National Monument near Tucson, housing developments are literally popping up along the borders of areas designated for protection

Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona (Photo: BLM)

Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona (Photo: BLM)

A litany of other problems introduced or amplified by urban growth are also discussed in the report, including vandalism to cultural sites, illegal off-road vehicle use, trash dumping, and target shooting, and inappropriate recreation. In one notable example, BLM was forced to exclude motor vehicles from 55,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert National Monument after off-road vehicle users repeatedly strayed from designated travel routes and caused extensive damage to the sensitive desert environment.

Lastly, the report questions whether BLM can effectively respond to the “special challenges” posed by urban growth, given that many units of the Conservation System are managed on a shoestring budget and law enforcement rangers are responsible for patrolling an average of 200,000 acres.

What can be done? Well, for starters, the report recommends that Congress increase funding for the Conservation System to $75 million, which would allow BLM to hire additional staff and commit more resources to protecting Conservation System units from the effects of urban growth. The report also recommends that BLM educate local governments on the need to consider the effects of urban growth on Conservation System units when planning for development on adjacent land. Finally, the report recommends that BLM pursue a variety of mechanisms, including land acquisitions, conservation easements, and legislative measures, to limit or prohibit development on private and public land adjacent to Conservation System units.

As shown by the report, urban growth in the West presents BLM with a complex array of management issues that will increasingly challenge the agency’s ability to protect many units of the Conservation System. Whether the agency can meet that challenge remains to be seen, and will likely depend in large part on the willingness of Congress to provide the Conservation System with the necessary funding and resources.

Learn more:

Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

A Victory for New Mexico's Endangered Mt. Taylor

Posted on: June 9th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

mt-taylor-2

Written by Ti Hays

Last Friday, in a highly anticipated decision, the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee unanimously voted to list Mount Taylor on the State Register of Cultural Properties. The decision ends for now a debate over Mount Taylor’s future that has divided the community of Grants and generated passionate appeals from those both for and against the designation.

When the Pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni, the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation first nominated Mount Taylor to the state register in 2008, many people in northern New Mexico worried that the tribes would use the listing to halt development on the mountain. Others feared that the tribes had an even grander scheme in mind: the wholesale transfer of public and private property to tribal ownership.

In reality, none of those concerns had any basis in fact. What moved the tribes to submit the nomination was a legitimate desire to be consulted over activities that could harm or destroy one or more of the (literally) hundreds of thousands of cultural sites on Mount Taylor—a desire shared by all people who attach traditional cultural significance to a place or object.

The Committee's landmark decision is notable for several reasons. First, by virtue of the listing, Mount Taylor becomes one of the largest, if not the largest, properties ever listed in a state or national register. At 344,729 acres, the designation includes not only the summit and slopes of the mountain, but also its principal mesas: San Mateo, Jesus, La Jara, Horace, Chivato and Bibo. Each of these mesas constitutes a "guardian peak" to which each tribe attaches varying degrees of cultural significance.

Second, the Committee specifically addressed the concerns of private property owners, many of whom opposed the nomination, by allowing them to essentially "opt-out" of the designation. The Committee was careful to explain, however, that the decision to exclude private property, which makes up less than one fourth of the area within the boundaries of the designation, in no way affects the overall historic integrity of the mountain.

"The State Register nomination that was approved today clearly establishes this landscape as a Traditional Cultural Property worthy of protection and preservation" said Katherine Slick, State Historic Preservation Officer and director of the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. "At the same time, the tribes have established in their nomination that private landholdings on the mountain no longer contribute to the elements that give Mount Taylor its cultural significance, and that the private property does not need to be afforded the protections provided by a State Register listing."

Finally, and most importantly, the listing secures to the tribes the right to consult with state agencies over projects on the mountain that require some form of state approval.

Whether the Committee will have the final say on the matter remains to be seen. Opponents of the designation have already signaled their intention to file a lawsuit challenging the decision. Should this happen, Mount Taylor may very well head down the long and uncertain path through the court system recently taken by another sacred mountain in Arizona—the San Francisco Peaks.

But for now, the mountain enjoys the protection of the state register. And the tribes that worked so tirelessly over the past two years to win this decision deserve an immense amount of credit, both for their willingness to disclose and discuss why Mount Taylor is important to them, and for their courage in the face of significant opposition.

Learn More:

Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

New Threats to the Minidoka National Historic Site

Posted on: April 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Elaine Stiles

Entrance to Minidoka, 1944.

Entrance to Minidoka, 1944.

The Minidoka National Historic Site (NHS) in Jerome County, Idaho is a place with a hard past, and for the past few years, a pretty challenging present, too. Now a National Park unit, Minidoka was one of ten relocation centers for persons of Japanese descent during World War II. The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Minidoka NHS as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2007 because of threats posed to the site by construction of a 13,000 head factory dairy farm less than a mile away. The farm has the potential to ruin the visitor experience at Minidoka, flooding it with foul odors, dust, and pests. After a long local permitting process and subsequent lawsuit, the county granted the permit to construct the farm, though no building has begun. Late last year, the National Trust, a consortium of advocates for the historic site, and local property owners filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the farming operation on procedural and constitutional grounds.

Now the Minidoka NHS faces a new potential threat. A portion of a planned 500-mile, 500 kilovolt electric transmission line between Idaho and Nevada is proposed to traverse or run less than one quarter of a mile away from the NHS. Conceived of more than 20 years ago, the Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP) was granted a right-of-way through what is now the Minidoka NHS by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. (The BLM managed the land that is now the NHS before the designation.) The independent power company pursuing the SWIP is also considering alternatives to the existing right-of-way, some of which would place the power line a short distance outside the main entrance of the NHS. These massive power lines would greatly impact the integrity of the historic site and potentially affect interpretive planning.

The Minidoka NHS is a fledgling National Park unit. The site is still awaiting funding to realize the interpretive plans the Park Service and its partners, including former internees and their families, crafted after its designation in 2001. Minidoka has much to teach us about the story of Japanese Americans in our country, the American homefront during World War II, and perhaps most importantly, the history of civil liberties and human rights in the U.S. Recently, Congress recognized this importance by authorizing the Park Service to expand the bounds of the NHS to include adjacent resources and partially funding a national grant program to interpret, protect, and restore Japanese American confinement sites nationwide. Much work remains to be done, however, to protect Minidoka and its story against the ill effects of industrial agriculture and our ever-growing energy needs.

Learn More:

Elaine Stiles is a Program Officer in the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.