THE SITE STEWARD PROGRAM
PROTECTING AMERICA'S "OUTDOOR MUSEUM":
Literally millions of priceless artifacts reside on public lands managed by BLM. This vast “outdoor museum” tells the story of the West over tens of thousands of years. A small but growing cadre of citizens is working quietly behind the scenes to help BLM archaeologists document and protect these resources. Site Steward volunteers are active in at least eight states across the western United States and in some eastern states as well. From programs established by State Legislation to those existing as grass roots efforts tenuously organized, they all share at least one thing in common – a determination to stop vandalism and theft and to create a record of what exists on the land.
State Site Steward Programs
Who Volunteers? Site stewards come from a number of backgrounds and represent citizens who are interested in preserving the cultural resources in their area. One does not need any particular expertise to volunteer, as training is provided. Often, public land visitors learn of the program when they contact BLM about a vandalized site. Their interest and determination to help is all they need to qualify.
Once volunteers become interested, often they become enthusiasts, giving long hours to the program. Shirley and the late George Craig of St. George, Utah, for example, started documenting ancient rock art in evenings and on weekends. Soon their daughter Amy became interested and before long, they were named regional site steward coordinators. Their work was recognized by the State of Arizona and in the National Making a Difference volunteer awards ceremony in 1999. Ray and Juanita Huber of St. George, Utah, performed more than 6,000 hours each over seven years as regional site steward coordinators. They also advised Utah and Nevada as these states set up programs modeled after Arizona. Their contributions were recognized last year at the National Take Pride in America Awards ceremony in Washington D.C. BLM volunteer Alvin McLane recorded more than 120 separate cultural sites in the Dry Lake Area of northwestern Nevada, where he started a full scale monitoring program. He was recognized in the BLM’s Making a Difference volunteer award ceremony in 2004. Countless site steward volunteers receive local recognition as well. For example, Darrel and Terry Wade recently received recognition by BLM’s Ely, Nevada, District Office for their exceptional contributions in starting a state-wide program.
Learning the Ropes: Training Site steward volunteers attend training courses to prepare them for field work. While this includes training on cultural history and archaeology, much of the instruction focuses on field techniques, survey and mapping, using a compass and important safety issues. In some areas, volunteers must learn about desert survival and dealing with hazards such as military ordnance, abandoned mine shafts and possible illegal activities in remote areas. But this does not deter them.
What Do Site Stewards Do? Site Stewards keep an eye on archaeological sites in danger of vandalism or natural deterioration. With so many sites, monitoring priorities must be set. Generally, sites deemed most vulnerable are given highest priority. These are typically large, easily accessible, or prominent, known sites.
Their mission is to monitor conditions of the resources and report these to a professional archaeologist with jurisdiction over the site. They use observations, field notes, drawings, and/or photography to record changes over time. By detecting changes early on, problems can be addressed more efficiently. In Nevada, site stewards detected four unauthorized uses of archaeological resources in the first 18 months of the program.
Site Stewards also assist in surveying and mapping. They even collect oral histories in some cases. Many site stewards provide educational outreach programs that increase awareness of the importance and lasting value of cultural resources, and encourage understanding and respect for the cultural diversity of the area.
Arizona Site Steward Program
The model for most site steward programs comes from Arizona where the 16-year-old program is sponsored by the State Historic Preservation Office. There, the cadre of 800 active stewards has made more than 7,500 visits to BLM sites, logging in an impressive 9,000 hours in 2004 alone. This program is not limited to BLM lands, however, and receives funding from a number of state and federal partners.
California Archaeological Site Steward Program
California’s four-year-old site steward program is sponsored by the Society for California Archaeology and BLM. It received the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award in 2002 and is funded by the state’s OHV (off-highway vehicle) commission.
Southwest Colorado Cultural Site Stewardship Program
Colorado’s program is concentrated in the Southwestern part of the state and focuses on resources on BLM land, mostly in Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. It is sponsored by the San Juan Mountains Association and Southwest Colorado cultural site stewardship program.
Montana Site Stewardship Program
Project Archaeology and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) formed a partnership to develop a Montana Site Stewardship Program. The program will promote public awareness of both pre-contact and historic cultural resources in Montana. The program will begin monitoring sites in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument (UMRBNM) lands. Over the next five years, the program will expand to additional lands throughout Montana.
Northwestern New Mexico Site Steward Program
In New Mexico, the program is funded by BLM and administered by the San Juan County Museum Association. About 50 volunteers monitor 80 sites in the Farmington area as part of a statewide SiteWatch program. Last year, the New Mexico Site Stewards participated in National Public Lands Day with the BLM’s Farmington Field Office where they worked at the BLM Crow Canyon Archaeological District. The New Mexico State Historic Preservation Division will be training new local chapters in Las Cruces and Socorro to monitor an additional 50 sites along the El Camino Real National Historic Trail
In Nevada, site stewards are active in the Ely and Las Vegas areas, and are supported by BLM and the Nevada Archaeological Site Steward Program.
Oregon Central Oregon has a program supported by BLM and the Archaeological Society of Central Oregon.
Utah Site Steward Program
This program is a statewide organization of volunteers chosen, trained, educated, and appointed by the Utah Division of State History. This program is sponsored by agencies, appropriate representatives, and the public land managers of Utah. San Juan County has a site stewarship program funded in part by BLM.
New Programs Additionally, several new BLM site steward programs are under development. These include a program for the island properties in the Lake Vermilion Recreation Area in Minnesota and several new Utah programs. In Price, Utah, many of the sites are being monitored for the first time.