Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Archaeological Sites

Archeological resources are the material result of past human activity. These irreplaceable resources include, but are not limited to, artifacts, campsites, villages, dwellings, earthworks, and rock art. These resources represent the cultural heritage of humankind and are a legislatively recognized and protected non-renewable component of the environment. The protection and preservation of archeological resources should be considered a priority in all actions taken or promoted by the Sierra Club. Specifically, the Sierra Club advocates the following:

1. Protection of Archeological Resources All government agencies, whether federal, state, regional, or local, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service. and the National Park Service, should refrain from any activity that would result in the disturbance or destruction of significant archeological resources.*

a. Any publicly funded, licensed, or permitted undertakings must take into consideration any impacts on significant or potentially significant archeological resources, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations (e.g., the National Historic Preservation Act and the Archeological Resources Protection Act). All governmental agencies must follow the regulatory procedures designed to ensure the identification, evaluation, and protection of significant archeological resources. Further, all appropriate agencies must abide by the mandate of the American, Indian Religious Freedom Act, and any other administrative policies requiring consultation with Native Americans when their archeological resources are affected.

b. We applaud those governmental jurisdictions that have also enacted legislation providing for the evaluation and protection of significant archeological resources on land subject to their jurisdiction and on projects they fund. We further applaud those Native American groups that have done the same. We support the enforcement of these laws and urge all governmental agencies and Native American groups that have not enacted such controls to do so.

c. While laws and regulations are very important to cultural resources protection, funding to accomplish these things is critical. We urge the adequate of funding of preservation and enforcement projects carried out under federal, state, and tribal antiquities laws.

d. All environmental organizations and other groups that may come into contact with archeological resources, such as outfitters and wilderness schools, should carefully evaluate and monitor their activities, especially outings to ensure that they do not damage those resources.

e. We urge the Bureau of Land Management to cease its broadly destructive process of vegetation removal by chaining. The destruction of valuable archeological and natural resources is not justified by the resultant rangeland creation.

2. Prevention of Vandalism and Looting of Archeological Resources on Public Lands Agencies managing public lands must pursue enforcement and prosecution under existing laws.

a. Public land agencies must increase their efforts to prevent violations and to apprehend and prosecute violators. We strongly support the intensified efforts by law enforcement agencies and public prosecutors to eliminate looting and vandalism of archeological resources.

b. Because a knowledge of the extent and nature of archeological resources is necessary for their management and protection, public land agencies must give a high priority to inventory and documentation. We urge Congress to provide the funding necessary for this work. Such inventory should be conducted under the auspices of professionally qualified specialists, as defined by the Society of Professional Archeologists or the Secretary of the Interior.

c. The Sierra Club supports the enactment or strengthening of anti- looting and anti-vandalism laws where they are inadequate.

d. The Sierra Club supports public education concerning the destructive nature of vandalism and looting.

e. The Sierra Club strongly endorses efforts by the American Association of Museums, the International Committee of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and UNESCO to curb the looting of sites and the transfer of illegally or unethically obtained archeological materials.

3. Prevention of Vandalism and Looting of Archeological Resources on Private Lands The Sierra Club encourages the prohibition of looting and vandalism of archeological resources on private lands. This may be accomplished by tax incentives for landowners (e.g., through conservation easements), through purchase of such lands by governmental or private agencies, or by enacting federal or state legislation (such as is the case with Mexico and Great Britain) protecting all archeological resources whether on public or private lands.

4. Archeological Research in Wilderness Areas Archeological resources within designated wilderness and wilderness study areas must be protected in accordance with applicable laws. Accordingly, professional archeological research in such areas should be allowed, so long as it results in no long-term or irreparable impacts to wilderness attributes.

a. Professional archeological research within wilderness areas should be permitted when and where it has been approved under existing applicable permitting procedures.

b. Archeological excavations in wilderness areas should be small and inconspicuous (except where the archeological resources would be destroyed by natural forces) and should employ techniques that minimize impacts on the surrounding environment and that, to the maximum extent possible, return the site to its previous, natural state. As with all wilderness activities, actions need to be consistent with wilderness management. No surface disturbance shall be allowed where wilderness values outweigh the archeological values.

5. International Archeological Protection The Sierra Club supports and encourages the enactment of legislation and funding of actions that promote the preservation and protection of archeological resources throughout the world.

a. All nations should recognize, preserve and protect their archeological heritage.

b. All governments should support international efforts to eliminate international trade and exchange of illegally acquired antiquities and archeological remains.

c. All nations should avoid activities at home or abroad that will result in adverse impacts on significant archeological resources.

* Significant archeological resources are equivalent to saying that they are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Basically, this means that these resources have the capability of yielding scientifically meaningful information about the past people who created them.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 11-12, 1989; amended May 17-18, 1997

[The policy on archeological resources in wilderness areas of February 14-15, 1970, is replaced by Section 4 above.]

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2014 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.