U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
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
California Archaeological Site Steward Program
Southwest Colorado Cultural Site Stewardship Program
Montana Site Stewardship Program
Northwestern New Mexico Site Steward Program
Utah Site Steward Program
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.