Nebraska couple named BLM’s 2022 “Heritage Heroes”


BLM Wyoming

BLM Office:

High Plains District Office

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BUFFALO, Wyo. – The Bureau of Land Management is pleased to announce Ben and Ann Darling of Sidney, Neb., as the recipients of BLM Headquarters’ 2022 “Heritage Heroes Award.” This prestigious award recognizes their exceptional contributions to recording and preserving cultural resources within the BLM’s Buffalo Field Office in northeastern Wyoming. The Darlings were presented the award in a ceremony at the Buffalo Field Office this winter.

The Darlings have been passionate volunteers for more than a decade, participating in 10 Passport in Time (PIT) or Volunteer Archaeology projects between 2011 and 2021. Their dedication and hard work have resulted in the contribution of more than 400 hours of volunteer time, more than 10% of the total volunteer hours contributed to the Buffalo Field Office’s volunteer archaeology projects. Their work has been invaluable in the BLM’s effort to record and protect Wyoming’s cultural heritage.

The Darlings began attending PIT projects while they were both employed as art teachers at middle and high schools in Sidney, jobs which they have since retired from. As artists, they brought a unique skill set to the projects and were especially suited to drawing features and rock art, as well as photographing and describing artifacts, sites, and features. Each year, they built knowledge of stone tool technology and became experts at identifying source materials for tools and recognizing stone tool types. The expertise they built, as well as their background in education, made them valuable additions to each PIT crew and they were often designated to train and mentor new volunteers.

“We are thrilled to see Ben and Ann recognized for their efforts and commitment to assisting the Buffalo Field Office,” says Buffalo Field Office archaeologist Ardy Hahn. “The work we can get done with the Darlings’ help, and that of our PIT volunteers, over the course of 5 days is exponentially more than the BLM can do on its own within the same timeframe. They truly are heritage heroes!”

PIT is a volunteer cultural heritage program that works with federal agencies to match volunteers with projects. The Buffalo Field Office’s projects last one week each and consist of volunteers traveling to remote locations in the area where they spend four long fieldwork days finding and recording archaeological sites. To date, Buffalo’s PIT projects have racked up more than 4,000 volunteer hours dedicated to site recording and testing, metal detection, pedestrian survey, and artifact curation throughout the 10-plus years.

The Heritage Heroes Award is an honor, both Ben and Ann should be proud of their accomplishments. Their hard work and dedication have made a significant impact on the recordation and preservation of cultural resources on public lands and their efforts will be felt for generations to come.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.