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The Wilderness Society * National Trust for Historic Preservation

Contact: Drew McConville, The Wilderness Society, 202/429-7441

Significant Archaeological Resources Found in Arizona Monuments

Archaeologists Encourage Responsible Management Before Resources Are Lost Forever

Flagstaff, AZ (November 9, 2004) – A unique partnership of archeologists and conservationists, performing on-the-ground inventories within two of Arizona’s newest protected areas, are discovering numerous archaeological resources in need of strong protection. The areas surveyed include Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments in the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon. The team hopes the new inventories will lead to effective management plans for the areas by documenting archaeological resources that could be damaged by looters, travel routes, and activity from all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, and other off-road vehicles.

Survey team finds unprotected artifacts in the middle of a vehicle track. Photo/Jill Ozarski.
Photo/Jill Ozarski

“We’re here to provide the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with critical information about the diversity and density of archaeological sites at these Monuments,” says archaeologist Peter Bungart from Flagstaff. “We’ve discovered campsites and habitations that date from the Ancestral Pueblo period nearly one thousand years ago to more recent Paiute occupation. Unfortunately, we also discovered evidence of looting. These resources could be lost forever if they’re not managed appropriately, but since they’re in National Monuments we have a great opportunity to protect them for future study.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently preparing a Resource Management Plan (RMP), which, among other management questions, will determine which routes are designated for motorized travel in the National Monuments. Since roads and motorized access can have extensive negative impacts on natural and cultural resources, this plan will shape the Monuments’ future.

“Looting, vandalism and even unintentional damage by vehicles are major problems at archaeological sites in this region. It’s going to take careful planning by the BLM to keep these sites protected in the long run,” says Mike Smith, Public Lands Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The BLM has a responsibility to safeguard the cultural treasures of the Arizona Strip. But with only about 3% of the Monuments surveyed for archaeological sites and not enough staff to do more, that’s a tough job,” says Jill Ozarski, Program Associate for The Wilderness Society’s Four Corners States office. “We’ve encouraged local archaeologists to volunteer some of their time and expertise to help BLM make a more informed decision about how to manage the area.”

During two 5-day work weekends in early November (11/4-11/8 and 11/11-11/15), the team of professional archaeologists and advanced university students, several of whom are volunteering their time, will survey at least 30 to 40 miles of route corridor within the two national monuments. Their work will focus around transportation routes where conservationists are concerned about motorized travel impacting cultural and natural resources.

“We know that this area contains abundant archaeological resources, but so little has been documented. Significant archaeological treasures are at risk of being lost or destroyed before we really have a grasp on what’s out there,” says Jon Shumaker, archaeologist and recent president of the Arizona Archaeological Council.

“Native American groups, along with archaeologists and conservationists, also have a vested interest in protecting these sites because these places reflect their history and cultural values,” says Mr. Bungart. “Our most ancient history is written on the land here. It’s important to all Americans.”

Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments in northern Arizona are part of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), a system of conservation areas created in 2000 to protect the jewels of the national BLM lands (

Grand Canyon-Parashant is characterized by lonely buttes, deep canyons and stark rock formations. More than one million acres of high desert lands are part of the Monument, which helps protect a rich diversity of plants and animals, cultural sites, critical watersheds, and the majestic Grand Canyon ecosystem. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geological wonderland containing Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyons. The Vermilion Cliffs, for example, rise 3,000 feet in a spectacular escarpment capped with sandstone. Water from the Paria River has created a stunning array of amphitheaters, arches and massive sandstone walls.


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