Tucson, Ariz. (November 25, 2019)—Today, Archaeology Southwest joined a coalition of heritage preservation and advocacy groups in formally opposing the planned relocation of key offices at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from Washington, DC, to Grand Junction, Colorado, and other locations in the West. In addition to Archaeology Southwest, the coalition comprises the National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Anthropological Association, Archaeological Conservancy, American Cultural Resources Association, National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, and Society for Vertebrate Paleontology.
Specifically, signatories to the November 25 letter to Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Udall (D-NM) and Representatives McCollum (DFL-MN) and Joyce (R-OH), leaders of the respective congressional Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, argued that the dispersal would “diminish management of cultural resources” and compromise the ability of BLM’s Division of Cultural Heritage, Paleontological Resources, and Tribal Consultation to properly fulfill its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, and other foundational laws. Many former BLM officials and conservation leaders have publicly opposed the move and warned of its consequences for proper and effective stewardship (see, for example, here, here, and here).
Excerpts from the letter:
“Unfortunately, the reorganization appears to have eliminated key leadership positions within the cultural resources program and will relocate other positions, including the Federal Preservation Officer, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. These changes will almost certainly exacerbate significant reductions in staffing and expertise that the program has experienced over the past several years. By all accounts, this reorganization is accelerating staff departures throughout the BLM.
“With an estimated 97% of BLM staff already working in the field, it is crucial that BLM
maintain an experienced and expert cultural resources directorate in Washington, D.C. to establish consistent policy and collaborate with other program staff in BLM, the Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies…”
“BLM has specific responsibilities to conduct government-to-government consultation with Indian tribes. We are concerned that this reorganization may eliminate the current positions of Tribal Coordinator and Curator/NAGRPRA Coordinator, which provide national leadership for BLM field staff. We are also disappointed by the lack of meaningful tribal consultation ahead of this reorganization plan.”
Read the letter in full here (opens as a PDF).
What is the National Historic Preservation Act, and why is it important? Watch this short video (opens at YouTube).
About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at archaeologysouthwest.org.
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