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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 355

Anniversary of the Archeological Resource Protection Act
October 31, 1979

This week marks the 29th anniversary of the passage of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. The passage of ARPA was applauded by the archaeological community as it expands the protections provided by the Antiquities Act of 1906, by protecting archaeological resources and sites located on public and Indian lands from looting and destruction of archaeological resources.

The Act states that archaeological resources on public and Indian lands are "accessible and irreplaceable part of the Nation’s heritage" but that they are "increasingly endangered because of their commercial attractiveness" and therefore require greater protection than provided by the Antiquities Act.

ARPA was enacted "to secure, for the present and future benefit of the American people, the protection of archaeological resources and sites which are on public lands and Indian lands, and to foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities, the professional archaeological community, and private individuals…"

In the Act, "archaeological resources" are defined as "any material remains of past human life or activities which are of archaeological interest…" such as, pottery basketry, graves, rock paintings, weapons or even structures, or any portion of these items that is at least 100 years old. ARPA also asserts federal ownership of historical objects excavated on federal lands and calls for the preservation of such objects in a "suitable" institution. The Act also includes both a permitting and enforcement component. The enforcement provisions provide for the imposition of both criminal and civil penalties against violators of the act and increases the penalties that can be levied against violators with increased monetary fines and imprisonment.

In compliance with ARPA, the Bureau of Land Management issues Cultural Resource Use Permits and Field Use Authorizations to allow cultural resources studies for research, as well as paleontological research. When specific projects are proposed that involve ground disturbing work at a prehistoric archeological site, an ARPA Permit must be approved before work begins. Any individual or organization wanting to perform specific archeological or paleontological fieldwork, such as survey, excavation or site conservation on BLM land can do so, after obtaining receipt of their approved Cultural Resource Use Permit.

ARPA Links:

BLM Protection & Preservation Laws Site:

Text of the Archeological Resource Protection Act, October 31, 1979 (PDF file):

National Park Service site regarding ARPA

- K. Hoggan, 10/28/08

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 355

Last updated: 10-30-2008