Landscapes

Federal Court Decision Upholds Protection of Cultural Resources in Montana

Posted on: January 21st, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ti Hays

Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine site. (Photo: The Wilderness Society)

Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine site. (Photo: The Wilderness Society)

Yesterday, a federal district court upheld a U.S. Forest Service travel plan for Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine. This is a good decision for historic preservation and one that the National Trust supported in an amicus brief filed last summer.  In the travel plan, the Forest Service closed most of Badger-Two to motorized vehicles in part to protect the area’s cultural and religious values.  Badger-Two is highly significant to the Blackfeet Tribe.  So much so that the National Park Service has formally determined that roughly 93,000 of the area’s 130,000 acres are eligible for listing in the National Register as a “traditional cultural district.”

In its decision, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that the Forest Service had violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. This clause generally forbids federal agencies from giving undue preference to a particular religious belief or practice in their decision making.  The court, however, found no such deficiency in the Forest Service’s travel plan, since it furthered “a host of secular purposes, including benefits to air quality, water quality, soil quality, wildlife habitat, and fish habitat.”  And, in light of those secular purposes, the court determined that the plan has neither the “principal” nor “primary” effect of advancing the tribe’s religious beliefs.  Finally, since the Forest Service’s dealing with the area is limited to “administrative enforcement of the Travel Plan.” the court found no impermissible “entanglement” between the agency and the Blackfeet’s religious practices.

This case is merely the latest in a string of cases upholding federal protections for areas that possess cultural and religious value to Native Americans.  The National Trust has participated in many of those cases and has consistently supported the federal government’s authority to protect places like Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark and Utah’s Rainbow Bridge National Monument.  Additionally, the Badger-Two decision clearly supports the arguments we recently made in an amicus brief in the Mount Taylor case.  That case involves an Establishment Clause claim that is virtually identical to the one rejected yesterday by the Badger-Two court.


Ti Hays is the public lands counsel for the Law Department of the 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.

Prehistoric Sites in Tonto National Forest Evaluated

Posted on: December 8th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Andy Laurenzi

Recent looter’s pit at a site on the Tonto National Forest.

This summer, archaeologists Saul Hedquist and Leigh Anne Ellison were hired by the Center for Desert Archaeology to conduct site damage and condition assessments of ninety-six prehistoric sites in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The project received funding support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other environmental partners and was done in cooperation with the forest. Our goal was to create a knowledge base that would enable the funding partners to more effectively participate in upcoming travel management and forest planning discussions.

Most of the assessed sites are significant habitation sites dating between A.D. 600 and 1400. These sites include prominent architectural features such as roomblocks and platform mounds. As such, most are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are register-eligible. Likewise, the Tonto National Forest designates many of them as Priority Heritage Assets. Unfortunately, their size and visibility also make these sites more attractive to human visitors—and, by extension, more vulnerable to vandalism and damage from recreational uses.

Leigh Anne Ellison and Saul Hedquist conducted site assessments on the Tonto National Forest.

Adverse effects related to human activity were evident at 90% of the assessed sites. Although most of the observed damage was decades old, more recent damage—within the past five years—was encountered at 15 sites. Fourteen of those are located within 500 meters of a Forest Service (FS) road. In general, sites located further from FS roads were found in better condition than those nearer to roads.

Although the factors influencing site damage and overall condition are complex and particular to each site, our data indicats that when a road open to motorized vehicle use is near a site, it can facilitate damage in two ways. First, it increases the likelihood that a vehicle traveling off-road will encounter a site and impact it (e.g., tire damage). Second, looters gain easier and faster access to a site.

These findings are consistent with recent studies on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Our findings also suggest that public land managers should strongly consider closing roads to motorized use if those roads provide easy access to these types of cultural resources.

Interestingly, prominent signage indicating penalties for violating the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) may be helpful. ARPA signs were observed at 14 sites, most of which were located near regularly used FS roads. Only one signed site had sustained recent damage. Monitoring of road-accessible sites by site stewards should constitute another effective measure—indeed, we already know the important role these dedicated volunteers play in managing cultural resources on public lands.

Andy Laurenzi is a field representative for the Center for Desert Archaeology in partnership with 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.

Guest Writer

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Preservation Law Notes: Brief Filed in Support of Mount Taylor Listing

Posted on: September 30th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ti Hays

Mount Taylor (Photo: US Forest Service)

Mount Taylor (Photo: US Forest Service)

Last Wednesday, the National Trust’s Law Department filed an amicus brief in support of the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee’s decision to list Mount Taylor—included on our 2009 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list—in the State Register of Cultural Properties (“State Register”).  The filing was opposed by the plaintiffs, who include several mining companies and New Mexico’s public lands commissioner. However, following a hearing in Lovington, New Mexico on September 13th, state district court judge William Shoobridge allowed the National Trust and several of its partners—the All Indian Pueblo Council, American Anthropological Association, Association on American Indian Affairs, Sierra Club and Society for American Archaeology—to file the brief.

The plaintiffs have challenged Mount Taylor’s State Register listing on a variety of constitutional and procedural grounds, two of which we addressed in our brief.  First, plaintiffs have argued that the decision lacks a “valid secular purpose” under the New Mexico Constitution’s Establishment Clause and was made solely to advance the religions of the pueblos and tribes (Acoma, Laguna, Zuni, Hopi and Navajo) that nominated Mount Taylor to the State Register.  Like its federal counterpart, the state’s Establishment Clause requires government action in the area of religion to have one or more such purposes.  However, as our brief explains, the nomination has several “valid secular purposes,” including protecting Mount Taylor’s archaeological, cultural and historic features, which number in the hundreds of thousands and are documented throughout the nomination.

Second, plaintiffs have claimed that Mount Taylor is not significant primarily for “historical” reasons, as the applicable regulations require for cultural properties that are “used for religious purposes.”  In response to that argument, our brief cites the extensive “ethnohistoric” documentation prepared by each of the five tribes with the assistance of professional anthropologists and included in the nomination.  Additionally, our brief points the court to the U.S. Forest Service’s 2008 determination, which the tribes also included in the nomination, that Mount Taylor is chiefly significant for “historical” reasons.

The court has tentatively scheduled oral argument in this case for December.  In addition to the Committee, the Pueblo of Acoma will also argue in support of the listing decision, as the pueblo has successfully intervened in the case as a defendant.

Ti Hays is the public lands counsel for the Law Department of the 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.

Overwhelming Turnout for Open House at Mark Twain National Forest

Posted on: September 30th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Jennifer Sandy

A big "This Place Matters" gathering at the Fuchs House ribbon-cutting event. (Photo: Shelly Fuch)

A big "This Place Matters" gathering at the Fuchs House ribbon-cutting event. (Photo: Shelly Fuch)

An innovative partnership at the Mark Twain National Forest came to fruition earlier this month at a ribbon cutting for the restored Fuchs House, also known as Markham Springs.  Built in the late 1930s out of local stone and situated near the town of Williamsville, the Fuchs House sat vacant for many years before the Mark Twain National Forest and the Heritage Stewardship Group (HSG) sent out an advertisement for creative re-use proposals for several surplus properties on the forest, which spans 1.5 million acres in southern Missouri.

Fortunately for the Fuchs House, Nick Barrack of CSE Construction in nearby Rolla saw the advertisement and thought the project looked like fun.  He put together a team of contractors and craftsmen representing the various skills that would be necessary to rehabilitate the house and submitted a proposal to the Forest.  After consultation with the Forest Service, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the National Trust, CSE Construction was awarded a special use permit to rehabilitate the Fuchs House at no cost to the Mark Twain National Forest.  In exchange, each of the volunteer teams would be able to use the house for free one week every year.

When the dust finally settled and the finishing touches were in place, more than 500 people toured the house at a ribbon cutting on September 5th.  Fuchs House will be available for rental a few weeks a year, and with its five bedrooms and accommodations for up to 14 people, will be the perfect family getaway.  More information is available on the Markham Springs website, including photos of the rehabilitation project.

The National Trust is so pleased to see this historic property returned to active use, and we agree with CSE Construction - This Place Matters!

Jennifer Sandy is a program officer in the Midwest 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.

[VIDEO] President Obama Talks Preservation at Gathering on Jobs & Economy

Posted on: September 14th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Yesterday afternoon, one of our colleagues - Wendy Nicholas, director of the Northeast Office in Boston - had an opportunity to speak to President Barack Obama about historic preservation. At a small gathering about jobs and the economy hosted by her brother and sister-in-law in Fairfax, VA, Wendy engaged President Obama about his thoughts on preservation as an economic driver. In a lengthy response that touched on schools, National Parks, and the HomeStar legislation, the President revealed that he's both informed and engaged on this issue that's so near and dear to us.

(Please note: the video below seems to be loading very slowly into our blog. You can get it a bit more quickly by clicking this link.)

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.