Heritage Heroes: Volunteers donate hundreds of hours to preserve Wyoming’s cultural heritage

Story by Dayna Ables, Senior Archaeologist. Photos submitted by Ardeth Hahn, BLM Wyoming State Office.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pleased to announce the newest winners of the “Heritage Heroes Awards.” BLM offices nominated individuals and groups of employees, volunteers, and project partners for their significant support of cultural heritage, history, paleontological resources, museum collections programs, or Tribal consultation within the scope of BLM’s Cultural Heritage Program.

In the Individuals category, BLM volunteers Ben and Ann Darling are recognized for their dedication to preserving BLM Wyoming’s cultural heritage. Ben and Ann have hosted 14 Passport in Time (PIT) projects in Johnson and Sheridan Counties, Wyoming between 2011 and 2021. PIT is a volunteer cultural heritage program that works with federal agencies to match volunteers to projects. The Darlings’ work with PIT over the past 10 years has resulted in the identification, recordation, and testing of numerous archaeological resources managed by the BLM Wyoming Buffalo Field Office (BFO).

Ann and Ben Darling standing in a field with trees in the background. Ben is standing inside of a stone circle and looking down at something he is recording. Ann is outside the circle measuring it with measuring tape.
Ann and Ben Darling draft a plan view map of a stone circle at the 2021 South Bighorns III Passport in Time Project.

Hosting a PIT project requires significant time and effort to plan and implement, from setting up and taking down camp to facilitating field work. The 14 PIT projects Ben and Ann hosted helped the BFO identify and manage important cultural resources and provided essential public outreach and educational opportunities. These PIT projects provide the public with the opportunity to directly engage with Wyoming’s past and learn new methods and techniques used in archaeological work.

Ben and Ann have also served as mentors to new volunteers by providing essential training and sharing their extensive knowledge, especially related to stone tool technology and identification of source materials.


Ben Adams, Diane Adams and Ben Darling standing with a shovel with rocks and trees in the background.
Ben Adams, Diane Adams and Ben Darling (with shovel) excavate a shovel test at an archaeological site in August 2019.
Ben holding a pen and writing on a clipboard in the middle of grassy hills.
Ben Darling drafting a plan view map of a stone feature at the 2016 Welch Ranch II Passport in Time Project.

Ben and Ann have contributed more than 400 hours of volunteer time, or 10.4 percent of the total volunteer hours contributed to BFO.

up-close view of "Passport in Time" passports- a small blue book with "Passport in Time" written on it. Another passport is open so that the fields that are filled in can be seen.
Passport stamps created by Ben Darling for participants in Passport in Time projects.

Ben and Ann contribute to BLM’s cultural resource mission by donating their time to ensure Wyoming’s rich cultural heritage is preserved for future generations. The BLM Buffalo Field Office is thankful for these Heritage Heroes!