Sierra Club Conservation Policies
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.]