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Law Enforcement - Cultural Resource Protection

Ansazi Heritage CenterOn public lands across our Nation, pot hunters and other archaeological looters are digging through ancient Indian pueblos, graves of Native Americans, and historic sites to steal artifacts for private collections or for sale. Theft and vandalism of cultural resources not only leads to the loss of cultural artifacts, but also destroys valuable scientific information that could be helpful in analyzing the culture of the people who lived at the site. 

The theft or disturbance of archaeological resources is against the law including the surface collection of arrowheads. BLM Rangers, Special Agents and archaeologists work closely together to monitor and protect your cultural resources; however, you can also help!

A small, but growing number, of citizens are assisting archaeologists to monitor and protect these resources. Site Steward Volunteers are active in at least eight states throughout the western United States and in some eastern states as well. From programs established by state legislation to those organized at the grass roots level, they all share a common goal - a determination to stop vandalism and theft and to create a record of what exists on public lands. 

Law Enforcement, Cultural Survey

In addition to its archaeological and historical resources, Colorado is home to several internationally-known paleontological quarries. By studying fossilized animals, plants, other organisms, ancient soils, geochemistry and biochemistry, paleontologists are currently engaged in answering questions of global and regional climate change and investigating the anatomical and evolutionary changes of life over time.

Paleontological resources are also protected by law.  Paleontological Resource Preservation became stronger with the passage of the “Paleontological Resources Preservation Act” (PRPA), as part of P.L. 111-11, the Omnibus Public Lands Act (OPLA) of 2009. The PRPA/OPLA included provisions to ensure that the public may continue to collect a reasonable amount of common invertebrate and plant fossils on public land without a permit. The act does not change BLM’s long-standing policy prohibiting the bartering or selling of casually collected fossils.  Permits are required to conduct scientific inquiry and collect vertebrate fossils and other significant paleontological resources from public lands. Any paleontological resources collected under permit from public lands remain U.S. Government property and must be curated in an approved facility where they will be available for scientific research and public education.

The PRPA/OPLA includes civil penalties for illegal theft and vandalism of paleontological resources from public lands, and provides stiffer penalties for criminal theft and vandalism. Exact locations of fossil localities, unless interpreted for the public or of a casual collecting nature (common invertebrate and plant fossils), are also protected by this act, and should not be divulged without written release by the affected government office. Casual collection of common invertebrate and plant fossils (no vertebrate fossils) is allowed on "most, but not all" BLM lands. Please check with the local field office to be sure the area allows for this use.

The act also provides the BLM with the authority to offer rewards to the public who help BLM prosecute illegal activities on public lands.

To report a crime on public lands visit our Report a Crime page. We need your help to protect our public lands for future generations to enjoy.

Contact Diane Mcbride at (970) 882-5628, or to become a Cultural Site Steward, visiting archaeological sites to monitor their condition and discourage vandalism.

Law Enforcement

Canyons of the Ancients National Monumnet