Published by the DOI Departmental Consulting Archeologist/NPS Archeology Program, National Park Service, Washington, DC, May 2007.
Archeological site stewardship programs can be a valuable component of protection plans for archeological resources on both public and private lands. These programs provide important assistance to land managers, who are often constrained by limited budgets and staff support. Site stewardship programs also involve landowners in the protection of archeological resources on private property. These programs facilitate communication among professional archeologists, government agencies, and the public. This technical brief explores the necessary components of successful development and implementation of an archeological site stewardship program.
Archeological site stewardship programs involve volunteers in archeological site monitoring activities. Typically, stewardship programs are developed in response to the damage or destruction of sites on a parcel of land, or the fear that fragile sites will be damaged in the future. This technical brief is meant to guide the development of new stewardship programs, and to provide an introduction to these programs for those interested and/or unaware of their use in cultural resource protection. Twelve site stewardship program coordinators from both terrestrial and underwater programs provided information about the efficient development of site stewardship programs. Their experiences and insights were compiled for this brief.
What is an Archeological Site Stewardship Program?
Archeological site stewardship programs are organizations of volunteers, often with some full-time professional coordinators, that assist with the protection, preservation, and/or interpretation of archeological sites. Archeological site stewardship programs can be divided into two categories: 1) stewardship of sites on public lands, 2) stewardship of sites on private lands. Stewardship programs on public lands are either run through non-profit organizations that have allied with government land managers, or are administered directly by agency land managers. Public lands are monitored by volunteer site stewards who visit sites to check on their condition. Stewardship programs on private lands involve the cooperation of landowners who act as stewards of cultural materials on their own property. Although both types of site stewardship programs are discussed in this brief, programs that monitor sites on public lands are the focus of discussion. (Refer to Table 1 for a listing of site stewardship programs and archeological easement programs by state.)
Archeological site stewardship is often incorporated within larger volunteer programs. Volunteers may perform various tasks in addition to site monitoring activities. Some programs use volunteers to assist in managing collections, performing laboratory work, providing site interpretation and even excavating at archeological sites. One example of the use of volunteers in these settings is the Arkansas Training Program for Avocational Archeologists (Davis 1990). However, this brief will focus on programs that predominantly involve volunteers who monitor archeological sites.
Developing Public Concern and Participation in Cultural Resource Protection
American site stewardship programs are a relatively recent phenomenon stemming from new attitudes about the protection and management of archeological resources. Over the past few decades professional archeologists and government agencies have shifted their approach from avoidance tactics to more proactive conservation initiatives (McManamon 1991; Thorne 1996:2). Increased awareness and concern for archeological and historic properties are reflected in federal laws such as the Reservoir Salvage Act (1960), National Historic Preservation Act (1966), Archeological and Historic Preservation Act (1974), Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979), Abandoned Shipwreck Act (1987), and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990).
Although proactive management of archeological materials has stimulated state and federal agencies to step up to new responsibilities, the growing tasks of land managers strain already sparse resources. Site stewardship programs play a critical role in supporting land managers through the work of volunteer monitors. Due to the extensive participation of volunteers, these programs can be run on relatively small budgets.
Site stewardship programs engage the supportive public in archeological site protection. Prior avoidance strategies limited and controlled public access to archeological resources rather than incorporating the public into protection plans. Land managers now realize that they underestimate the number of people that are both interested and willing to donate their time to help protect archeological sites.
Public involvement in cultural resource management has increased through time. State and federal agencies first acknowledged public interest in the protection of archeological resources in the late 1960s. In the mid-to late-1980s federal agencies began to systematically address the increasing problem of looting on public lands and created plans to curtail damage to archeological sites (McManamon 1991, 2000). In addition, amendments to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) required federal land managers to “…establish a program to increase public awareness of the significance of the archeological resources located on public lands and Indian lands and the need to protect such resources” (1988 amendment to ARPA, Sec. 10c). This mind-set is emphasized in professional organizations such as the Society for American Archaeology, whose guiding principles encourage archeologists to cultivate public support for the protection and preservation of the archeological record (Lynott and Wylie 2000; SAA 1996; see also SHA 2003). Site stewardship programs are an integral part of a new movement towards public stewardship of archeological resources.
Threats to Site Preservation
Archeological site preservation strategies differ greatly from region to region because the type and location of archeological sites varies by region. The type and the location of sites are the most significant factors in determining the structure of site monitoring programs. Site stewards who monitor archeological sites typically are charged with identifying and recording two types of degradation to archeological sites: 1) environmental and 2) human.
Environmental degradation can include rodent, root, and insect disturbances. In addition, wind, water damage, and particularly erosion are significant factors that affect the condition of sites. Environmental degradation can worsen as an indirect result of human activities such as logging, development, and agriculture, which strip vegetation and make nearby sites more vulnerable to wind and water damage. Rodents and other pests are also attracted to areas of human occupation, and thus pose a greater risk to sites near population centers.
Although environmental degradation can be significant, human degradation is generally the main source of site damage and is the most difficult type of site destruction to control. Human degradation can take several forms, including development, unintentional damage, vandalism, looting, and mismanagement. These types of damage are discussed below.
In recent years, development has posed a significant threat to archeological sites across the country. Although Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires an assessment of historic properties (which include archeological sites) affected by federal undertakings, many sites on private lands are destroyed by construction projects. Development poses a greater risk to sites on non-federal land because few laws regulate private property.
Visitors are often unaware of damage they inflict on archeological sites, but can wreak havoc on delicate archeological remains. Climbing or sitting on masonry walls can displace stones and undermine the structural integrity of the architecture. Eating or camping on or near sites attracts rodents and other pests that may damage the site. Fires can leave stains on the ground as well as nearby stone walls. Artifact collection by uninformed visitors reduces the interpretability of the site and removes precious and irreplaceable archeological materials from their original contexts. In cases such as lithic scatters, which may be all that remains of a small, ancient camp, artifact collection may obliterate the site entirely.
Much more destructive than the accidental damage caused by visitors, vandalism and looting pose a serious risk to archeological resources. Although vandalism and looting can occur together, their perpetrators tend to be different types of people with different motivations. Vandalism refers to intentional damage to or destruction of resources that is not motivated by profit. Vandalism includes relatively random acts of desecration. The thrill of destruction or the desire to visibly “tag” archeological remains such as masonry walls or petroglyph panels is the primary motivation for vandal behavior. Looting is intentional destruction and theft with the aim of obtaining artifacts with economic or market value. Looting is motivated by the opportunity to profit from the archeological record or the desire to possess archeological materials.
Although environmental and human degradation pose threats to site preservation, the mismanagement of archeological sites on public and private lands also can lead to serious site damage. To protect sites adequately, land managers must be aware of the resources on their lands. They must consider site preservation to be a priority, and they must be informed of measures needed to protect and preserve archeological sites. Up-to-date survey information and educated land managers are two critical components for proper management of archeological materials.
Complete and comprehensive survey information is essential to protecting archeological sites on large tracts of land. Land managers cannot adequately protect resources that they do not know are in their care. Out-dated or incomplete survey data, particularly if it was not collected for management purposes, can pose several problems for cultural resource management. Often surveys lack detailed site descriptions, site condition reports with disturbances and threats to the sites, and location information. Artifact scatters and soil and water control features are often missing from survey data. In addition, out-dated survey information can pose serious problems to initiating site preservation. The condition and environment surrounding archeological sites can change quickly. Frequent assessments of sites every 1-5 years (or more frequently for high risk sites) are necessary to stay up to date. Finally, smaller ephemeral and/or poorly preserved sites and sites that are difficult to recognize may not be adequately represented in survey data.
No less important than adequate information about site location is the attitude and commitment of the land manager. Land managers who do not recognize or emphasize the need for cultural resource protection will not be good stewards. Because resource managers may be strained by limited budgets and staff, they may not allocate sufficient attention to archeological resources. In addition, lack of communication between land managers, archeologists, the public, and state and federal agencies can undermine site preservation.
Addressing Problems through Site Stewardship Programs
Site stewardship programs can help alleviate threats to archeological sites. A site stewardship program typically begins with recognition of damage to sites. In some cases, land managers do not know the extent to which sites have been impacted by environmental and human degradation and acknowledge that their staff and funding cannot fully protect the area they supervise.
Site steward programs can provide support to land managers in several critical ways. First, site stewardship programs help land managers establish long-term protection strategies for sites. One of the most common site steward activities is regular visits to site areas and visual inspection of the sites. With consistent monitoring, the effects of environmental and human degradation are regularly observed and recorded, a basic requirement for developing a protection plan.
Second, site stewardship programs that are external to public agencies can help bring the attention of resource managers to the archeological resources on their lands. In some cases, the focus of land managers may not include archeological sites. External interest by a group of concerned people may provide the impetus to rethink how archaeological resources are treated and protected on parcels of public land. Site stewardship programs can help emphasize the importance of archeological resource protection while providing support for this protection.
Third, site stewardship programs play an important role in educating the public about the fragile nature of archeological sites. This type of education can prevent unintentional damage to archeological resources. Stewards are the first and main recipients of this training. However, stewards play a role in educating the wider public. They may operate information booths, give public lectures on stewardship, contribute to workshops for the public, and participate in other activities that impact a wide range of people. Most importantly, stewards act as informal liaisons between the public, archeological community, and land managers. Simply knowing someone who is a site steward may affect the way that other people think about and treat archeological materials. Agency employees are often seen as outsiders, while a site steward can offer a local perspective on resource management within communities.
Fourth, site stewardship programs are “watch-dogs” for archeological sites. Many site stewardship programs have noted that the intentional damage of sites, either through vandalism or looting, significantly decreased after the implementation of their programs. The knowledge that the area is regularly patrolled by site stewards is often enough to deter would-be vandals and looters.
Site stewardship programs can also provide a conduit through which local law enforcement and archeologists can reach out to the public about the protection of archeological resources in a positive manner. In general, people do not respond to negative messages that emphasize sanctions against looting and vandalism (Hoffman 1991; Simon 1994). Programs such as the Arizona Site Stewardship Program have adopted a positive approach to address site destruction, that includes educating the public about these resources so that they will have a greater appreciation for their value. Allowing people information and access to sites not only provides the public with a positive way to experience archeology, but it deters would-be vandals and looters (Hoffman 1991; Lerner and Hoffman 2000).
Most importantly, site stewardship programs facilitate interaction and collaboration among government agencies, resource managers, archeologists, and the public. Site stewardship programs keep cultural resource protection in the minds of land managers. Land-managers may be more willing to meet stewardship programs with organized volunteer labor half-way on certain initiatives.
Initiating a Site Stewardship Monitoring Programs
Site stewardship programs can be a highly effective means of preventing damage to archeological sites. Many programs, such as the Alutiiq Museum site stewardship program, report that site damage has decreased dramatically as a result of program initiatives. However, the success of a site stewardship program is largely dependent on public land ownership and the type of archeological sites present. Site stewardship programs are most active in states that have large tracts of federal and state-owned lands. Archeological sites are ostensibly protected on public lands, but large tracts prove difficult to monitor. Site stewardship programs provide support for federal and state land managers who are often unable to provide sufficient coverage of archeological sites in remote areas.
Site stewardship programs are also more prevalent in areas where archeological resources are readily visible from the surface. The visibility of sites depends both on the surrounding vegetation and on the nature of the materials themselves. Visibility both attracts public interest as well as potential looters and vandals—two catalysts for the development of site stewardship programs. For instance, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have well-developed site stewardship programs in part because many archeological sites are readily visible in these areas and are thus most prone to damage.
If the need, resources, and interest are ripe for a site stewardship program, most agencies or organizations begin by providing funds to organize the program. Budgetary concerns are often the primary factor influencing program initiatives. Establishing the site stewardship coordinator’s position is also an important step for establishing a site stewardship program. This person will be essential to the day-to-day operation of the program.
Once funding and the coordinator position have been secured, site stewardship coordinators begin by gathering data on the preservation quality, site type, site occupation period, and location of archeological sites on a land parcel. If possible, extant survey data should be evaluated before the program is implemented. However, correcting survey data represents a great deal of work and many programs may have to forgo this step if they do not have sufficient staffing and training. In most cases, site stewardship coordinators evaluate site condition components and develop preservation plans specific to the types of archeological sites present. Some stewardship programs implement stabilization methods, if needed. Finally, coordinators produce a plan to monitor sites, prioritizing sites that have already sustained damage, are in locations that make them susceptible to damage, or that are of a unique and fragile nature. The plan establishes methods to monitor sites and to record site condition. Additionally, coordinators organize the recruitment, education, and training of site stewards.
Training volunteers is one of the most important tasks in implementing a site stewardship program. The site stewardship coordinator should first establish what the volunteers need to know, and how this information should be effectively conveyed. In most cases, volunteer training consists of both classroom and field components that include information about archeological resources in the region. More detail on the importance of proper training is discussed in the section on careful recruitment below.
Critical Components to the Success of Site Stewardship Initiatives
Site stewardship programs vary with respect to organizational structure, funding, and management. However, certain components are necessary to the successful implementation of any site stewardship program. The following sections are based on coordinators’ experience with the critical components of leadership; budget; program goals; partnerships; recruitment; advertising; and volunteer motivation, retention, benefits and recognition. (Refer to Table 2 for a summary of the topics discussed.)
Leadership is a vital component to the success of site stewardship initiatives. In most cases, both local and government leadership are essential. Some programs are initiated at a grass-roots level and then gain support from legislative bodies, government agencies, state historic preservation offices, or other organizations. In contrast to these “bottom-up” approaches are programs such as the Arizona Site Stewardship Program, which was initiated by the Governor (Hoffman and Lerner 1988; Hoffman 1991). Most site stewardship programs are state-based, however, many federal agencies are actively involved with these programs.
Although most programs are run through state and federal land management agencies, the investment and enthusiasm of local leaders are essential to developing and implementing successful site monitoring programs. Site stewardship programs are, more often than not, the results of the efforts and commitment of one or two people. However, some site stewardship program coordinators note that local leadership should not be too greatly invested in one person. When a founding member moves from their position, some programs lose momentum through lack of continuity and changing priorities under new supervision. To maintain continuity and consistency in leadership, most site stewardship programs advocate funding at least two central leadership roles. Ideally, both of these roles are paid, full-time positions. Most programs agree that, at the very least, there should be one paid position devoted to managing site stewardship activities. Statewide programs such as those in Nevada, Arizona and California, require larger numbers of leadership roles.
Central leadership roles should be filled by people who are familiar with the archeological resources of the region. Preferably, these people also have connections to agencies that will provide support to the program. Most importantly, site stewardship program leaders should be able to devote considerable time to the development and implementation of the program. Consistency in program administrators and coordinators is essential during all stages of program development. The most successful site stewardship programs, such as Arizona’s program, have had consistent management over a long period of time. The Arizona program recommends that a site stewardship coordinator be able to commit to a minimum of five years in the position (Lerner and Hoffman 2000:236-240).
Leadership structure in site stewardship programs varies with respect to the size and needs of the program. In large, statewide programs, general managers may organize the volunteer training, support, and education while local leaders organize day-to-day volunteer activities. In all programs, but especially in larger programs, communication between leadership levels is essential. Large programs often hold their own conferences and regularly scheduled meetings to make communication predictable and effective.
Role of Site Stewardship Coordinators. The site stewardship coordinator is one of the most important roles in a site stewardship program. The coordinator organizes volunteer labor, directs volunteer training and education, directs advertising and recruitment, and is each volunteer’s main contact within the program. For this reason, the coordinator position is essential to the smooth operation of any site stewardship program at the local level.
The coordinator’s relationship with volunteers is the backbone of the program. Regardless of the size of a stewardship program, consistent communication between coordinators and stewards is crucial to the efficient operation of the program and to the motivation of volunteers. In particular, volunteers should be involved in some aspects of planning. They should be solicited for their opinions and should be kept abreast of changes in requirements. Stewardship coordinators should keep volunteers up-to-date on developments that impact the program such as land closures, reports of looting or vandalism in neighboring regions, and budget changes.
Volunteer coordinators in site stewardship programs external to government agencies must develop relationships with agencies or organizations that will serve as funding or working partners. The involvement of sponsors at the local, state, and/or federal level is essential for both monetary and administrative support. Preferably, the site stewardship coordinator is involved in aspects of the decision-making process for that agency/organization as well as in the allocation of program monies.
2. Funding Sources and Budget
Budget concerns are the main limiting factor to the implementation and development of site stewardship programs. Although programs can function on a relatively small budget, funding may be difficult to come by. Often funds must be portioned from other projects to fund stewardship initiatives, which are then susceptible to abandonment if money becomes tight. Several site stewardship program coordinators suggested that at least two to three years of funding should be identified at the on-set. Budgets should include, at the very least, funding for a full-time site stewardship coordinator. However, consistent funding is also necessary for basic operational needs such as additional staff, promotional materials, equipment, food and beverages for activities, and awards. If possible, funding sources should be diversified to protect against budget cut-backs that impact stewardship programs.
Monetary aid from federal and state governments, and partnerships with other institutions that provide budget support are essential to any site stewardship program. The stability of funding sources is also contingent on whether a program is managed and supported with state resources or whether it is operated as a non-profit organization with partial funding from state and federal partners. Non-profit groups, such as the San Juan Mountains Site Stewardship Program in Colorado and the stewardship program run through the New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves, have to devote more time and energy to fundraising and writing grant proposals for external funding than programs such as Arizona’s which has a state-supported budget. The San Juan Mountains Site Stewardship program notes that it is more difficult to acquire consistent funds for day-to-day operational costs through donations and grant sources than to raise money for a specific project or event.
The expansion of stewardship programs is generally due to federal funding or successful partnerships that provide secure monetary support. In the case of the Nevada Site Stewardship program, funding through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) and a partnership with the Nevada Archaeological Association enabled the program to expand to cover an extensive portion of the state. The site steward program manager for the program is a full time employee within the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office.
Although it is ideal to secure funding early on, several successful programs took a risk and began developing volunteer activities before a budget was settled. Regardless of how secure funding is for a site stewardship program, programs succeed through the determined and mostly unpaid labor of the public, archeologists, and local agency representatives. For instance, the now successful Nevada Site Stewardship Program was initiated without the support they now rely on (SNPLMA and the Nevada SHPO) and operated for over three years before this support came through.
3. Clear Program Goals
Site stewardship program goals should be clearly understood by both the partnering agencies and volunteer site stewards. Concise and well-articulated goals allow programs to devote time and attention to the most pressing matters. In addition, the progress of the program can be measured in relation to these goals. A well defined mission statement is important for effective program advertising and volunteer recruitment as well as effective partnerships with other agencies/institutions. Clear goals are a prerequisite for applying and obtaining grant money.
In addition to establishing goals for site stewardship initiatives, programs should acknowledge their limitations. Often establishing what a program will not do is just as important as establishing what it will do. In particular, many programs note that their site stewards do not and should not have any role in law enforcement. (This issue is discussed further in the section on The Limits of Volunteerism.) Also, many programs state that stewards are not involved in site stabilization, land surveys, or other types of research projects on the lands that they monitor. Although many coordinators express a desire to carry out these activities, lack of resources prevent them from realistically doing so. Over-spreading already thin resources can jeopardize program success in the long run. In addition, site stewards are not synonymous with certified archeological technicians who are trained to complete archeological surveys, data recovery, and other research projects.
4. Partnerships that Work
Incorporating outside agencies and institutions into site stewardship initiatives facilitates program success in a variety of ways. First, cooperating agencies/institutions may provide monetary support. Even if funding is not available, partnerships can contribute valuable resources to developing programs. These resources may include fundraising capabilities, advertising, volunteers, professional expertise, equipment, and facilities for meetings. In particular, academic institutions are a relatively untapped resource for site stewardship programs. University professors and staff can provide professional advice and support while students may become volunteers. Student participation helps programs reach out to young people in the community, a demographic group that has the potential to make major and long-lasting contributions to the protection of archeological sites.
Second, multiple partnerships provide a safety mechanism that protects the stewardship program from bureaucratic vicissitudes that may befall individual partnership agencies. With several different partnerships, programs are able to buffer themselves from the internal politics of agencies and withstand budget crises.
Third, programs may have a surplus of volunteer labor. Partnerships occasionally allow this “overflow” to be distributed to other programs that need help. In this way, partnerships can help even out the distribution of volunteer labor and provide support to programs during times when they need help.
To be effective, site stewardship programs need to create partnerships that are both strategic and explicit. Partnerships can provide enormous benefits to low-budget initiatives such as site stewardship programs. However, like any other relationship, they require upkeep and maintenance. By strategically selecting partners for site stewardship initiatives, a program can maximize the benefits it receives from contributors and can minimize the costs associated with partnerships.
Effective partnerships are based on a series of explicit expectations between the two parties. If an institution/agency is not fully aware of its function within site stewardship initiatives, its contribution will most likely be minimal and/or unsuccessful. Site stewardship programs that best utilize partnerships establish a concrete series of obligations between their program and the institution/agency with which they work. Furthermore, concrete personal contacts between representatives within the institution/agency and the site stewardship program coordinator facilitate and cement partnership relationships.
For example, the California Archaeological Site Stewardship Program (CASSP) has successfully used a Memorandum of Understanding to streamline interaction between the program and partnership agencies. The document is signed by local and regional managers from participating agencies to ensure that they are aware of the program’s goals and will support program initiatives.
Several site stewardship programs advocate the use of an advisory body to create a liaison between site stewardship coordinators and partners from government agencies. Advisory bodies are most effective when they include members from the local community, museum staff, members of the academic community, tribal cultural resource staff members, and others who have a vested interest in the program’s success.
The involvement of Native American groups, state and federal agencies, and local archeologists contributes to the successful operation of a site stewardship program. Strategies to develop and sustain these types of partnerships are discussed below.
Native American Involvement in Site Stewardship Programs. Eliciting the support and involvement of Native American groups in site stewardship initiatives is essential in areas where the majority of the archeological sites are Native American. Although great strides have been made in developing tribal archeology programs (Anyon and Ferguson 1995; Anyon et al. 2000; Ferguson et al. 1993; TwoBears 1995), the majority of the people working with Native American archeological resources are not tribal members. Therefore, it is important for both land managers and the public to understand the connection between the protection and preservation of Native American archeological resources and respect for Native traditions.
The ability to incorporate Native peoples into site stewardship programs either as advisors, administrators, or stewards depends on the interest of local Native groups as well as the nature of the archeological resources in the region. In some cases, local Native American populations have no cultural affiliation with the archeological sites to be monitored. Although some groups participate in monitoring these resources anyway, it is much easier to incorporate Native groups in such efforts when they have a sense of connection to the archeological remains in question.
Effective interactions between site stewardship programs and Native American communities require frequent and sustained communication between program coordinators and local tribes. Site stewardship coordinators may have to tailor their program goals to accommodate those of local tribal governments. Site stewardship programs should not simply ask for the tribe’s blessing or support, but should strive for active Native involvement in the program.
The Alutiiq Museum Site Stewardship Program in Alaska and the California Site Stewardship Program involve Native Americans to a large degree. The Arizona program involves Native American groups in volunteer training and at their regional conferences. In New Mexico, some tribes are considering developing their own site stewardship program in partnership with the New Mexico SHPO to monitor sensitive cultural resources off and on tribal lands.
Recognition by Public Agencies. The recognition and involvement of public agencies is essential to the development and implementation of stewardship programs on public lands, regardless of whether the program is operated through a public agency. Agencies provide funding, access to public lands, survey information, administrative support, and staff for site stewardship programs. Some site stewardship programs are supported by volunteer programs established by major land management agencies. These include the Forest Service’s “Passport in Time” (PIT) program and the National Park Service’s “Volunteers in Parks” (VIP) program.
The type of partnerships between private stewardship programs and public agencies vary according to the structural relationship between the program and the government agency. Although many site stewardship programs are run through state and federal agencies, some site stewardship program coordinators are not government employees. In the latter case, clear communication and cooperation within the partnership are pivotal to program success.
Some federal agencies have established site stewardship programs themselves, such as the BLM’s “Adventures in the Past”, the Forest Service’s “Partners in Preservation” <www.passportintime.com/>, and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s “A Thousand Eyes” program. In addition, some stewardship programs are run through several federal agencies. For example, in partnership with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service, the New Mexico SHPO has initiated the New Mexico SiteWatch program to monitor sites. The SiteWatch program has several different chapters across New Mexico.
Although multiple partnerships allow programs to cover larger tracts of land, stewardship programs involved with several different federal and state agencies occasionally experience frustration with inconsistent requirements. One problem that larger programs, such as the Nevada Site Stewardship program, experience is the difficulty collecting information that will satisfy all the land managers with whom they work. Communication between agencies can be difficult and if it breaks down, programs may experience set-backs.
The willingness of local representatives from federal and state agencies to participate in site stewardship programs may vary considerably. A lack of participation can impede the development of some programs. Some agencies many not agree to partnerships across an entire state, for instance. Local agency representatives in certain areas may be unwilling to cooperate. State field offices may refuse to provide site information to stewards and program coordinators. In such cases, program coordinators will have to decide how best to proceed. Sometimes success stories in other geographic areas can help persuade reluctant land managers to participate.
In the event of site damage, some agencies will not respond unless criminal activity is currently in progress. Authorities are seldom able to immediately respond to site damage reports due to limited law enforcement personnel in many areas. Volunteers may become frustrated when their efforts to report damage are not met with swift and positive responses from the agencies that manage the land.
Occasionally, the goals of state and federal agencies are in opposition to those of site monitoring programs. For instance, grazing on public land can conflict with the preservation of archeological sites. Site stewardship programs must fit the goals of their program within preexisting agency initiatives without compromising their original intentions.
Working With Professional Archeologists and Organizations. The support and involvement of local professional archeologists and the professional archeological community is important to the education of volunteers and to the success of site stewardship initiatives. Advising archeologists are often volunteers as well. Local professionals and professional organizations often donate their time and expertise to provide training to site stewards, lectures to the volunteer community, and consultation on the recording, protection, and stabilization of sites.
5. Careful Recruitment & Protecting Site Information
The black market trade of antiquities looted from archeological sites has placed profitable prices on archeological resources. As a result, looters see archeological sites as sources of income and seek them out. Land managers carefully guard archeological site locations under the requirements of ARPA. A site stewardship program that includes site monitoring provides site locations, which are typically hidden from the public, to volunteer site stewards. The stewardship program takes a considerable risk by providing site stewards with this valuable information. As such, site stewardship programs must engage in careful and discriminating volunteer recruitment.
Most site stewardship programs only recruit volunteers through word-of-mouth. This way, program coordinators know at least something about the background and motivation of potential applicants. In addition, studies indicate that volunteer recruitment is much more effective if it is done face-to-face and involves volunteers already committed in some way to the volunteer work that they will undertake (Midlarsky & Kahana 1994:219; McAdam & Paulsen 1993:644). Additionally, individuals recruited via personal contact with program staff or volunteers are more likely to remain committed to their work.
To further ensure that volunteers will do no harm to sites, some site stewardship programs require a reference for steward applicants. In addition to a reference to enter the program, the Arizona Site Stewardship Program requires an exit interview for volunteers leaving the program. These measures are important to ensuring that site stewards are attracted to the program with the interest of protecting archeological resources and that they leave the program with the same intent.
Site stewardship programs often require extensive training for their site stewards to ensure that volunteers will not intentionally or inadvertently harm sites. In most cases, training includes both classroom and fieldwork components. Through training, programs emphasize the necessity to keep site locations secret. Often programs do not allow site stewards to bring visitors on their monitoring trips and require that volunteers sign confidentiality agreements. These measures help to ensure that only trained persons will visit archeological sites.
Some archeological sites are so fragile and/or important that stewardship programs have only professional staff monitor them. By selecting sites that are suitable for volunteer stewards and sites that are not, programs are able to provide different levels of protection to archeological resources on an appropriate case-by-case basis.
Finally, site stewardship programs help ensure the longterm protection of archeological sites by creating and supporting a local archeological community that includes steward volunteers. Several studies have indicated that norms of expected behavior are powerful determinants of an individual’s actions within a social group (Feldman 1984; Leary 1995). Social pressure to do the “right” thing is reinforced by group approval and disapproval of particular actions (DeRidder et al. 1992; Festinger et al. 1950). By incorporating the public into the archeological community, the protection of archeological sites becomes a high priority to local residents.
6. Program Advertising
In addition to recruitment, site stewardship programs can help prevent human degradation to sites on public and private lands through strategic advertising. Advertising is a double-edged sword in cultural resource protection. Unfortunately, press about sites on public or private lands attracts both desired and unwanted attention. To avoid negative attention, site stewardship program newsletters and websites should focus on volunteer activities that do not directly involve site monitoring. Advertising should avoid describing resources on a particular land parcel and should only post photographs of sites that cannot be identified by topographic features. Program advertising initiatives should discuss the penalties for looting sites, publicize the prosecution of any looters in the area, and advertise that site stewards patrol sites at regular intervals. Several programs have noted that vandalism and looting were reduced in their areas due to publicity about site monitoring. For example, New Mexico SiteWatch program, Nevada Rock Art Site Stewardship program, and Alutiiq Museum Site Stewardship Program reported that advertising deterred looters.
In addition to notifying would-be vandals and looters of monitoring activities, advertising helps programs recruit volunteers (if they decide to expand beyond word-of-mouth recruitment), educate the public about cultural resource protection, and inform local residents of program activities. Programs advertise through newsletters, publications, billboard postings, announcements at conferences and lectures, and brochures.
In particular, internet sites are an excellent but under-used tool to disseminate information about stewardship programs. The following are critical components in a successful site stewardship webpage.
- Clearly state the name of the stewardship program.
- Highlight the goals of the program as specifically as possible.
- Outline the role of volunteers in the program.
- Most importantly: Prominently display the name and contact information for the site stewardship coordinator. If possible, email, phone, and mailing address for the coordinator should be included.
The following elements are extremely useful to have on the webpage if the program wants to recruit broadly.
- Site stewardship volunteer application: An electronic application form streamlines the application process. Applicants do not have to go through the additional step of contacting the program coordinator for a hard copy of the application.
- Site steward monitoring forms: Forms provide a preview of what types of recording site stewards undertake. Interested applicants can get a feeling for the duties of site stewards.
- Copies of newsletters, meeting minutes, and bulletins: Newsletters provide a sense of the site stewardship community, opportunities for site stewards, and on-going activities.
- A calendar of stewardship activities: Often volunteers are motivated not only by the causes that they donate their time to, but opportunities to meet like-minded people and to socialize.
- Pictures of stewards and stewardship activities: Pictures of stewards and stewardship activities provide a glimpse of the community that a volunteer becomes a part of. Additionally, potential volunteers can see the types of activities in which they may be participating. Visual materials are effective in providing information to interested persons. Programs should be sure to get signed permission forms from individuals before posting recognizable likenesses on the internet or including them in any publication.
Some programs try to limit the areas where they advertise to moderate and control the growth of the program. For these programs, mass media announcements of volunteer opportunities are not necessary. Too many volunteers can be just as detrimental to a site stewardship program as too few, because a minimally-staffed program can get overwhelmed. As noted in the discussion about partnerships above, it may be possible to distribute a surplus of volunteers to other programs that need help.
If possible, stewardship programs should avoid focusing solely on negative messages about vandalism, looting, and other forms of site destruction in their advertising. Rather, advertising should route interested people to opportunities to learn more about the archeology in the region, and perhaps visit some designated sites. Site etiquette procedures should be advertised.
7. Volunteer Motivation & Retention
Volunteer labor is the backbone of all site stewardship programs. Volunteers provide services that are not replicated by the paid workforce. Successful site stewardship programs recognize the reasons why people volunteer and address these motivations in volunteer activities. The decision to volunteer is motivated by a variety of different factors. Although volunteers are not paid for their work, they often have a stake in volunteer programs in which they participate. Typically, volunteers hope to gain something by contributing their time and effort to a particular cause. The benefits that they seek may be personal satisfaction, public recognition, improving something in which they have personal interest, or socializing.
Site stewardship program coordinators agree that volunteer motivation is important to the success of their program. Similar to other volunteer activities, volunteers in site stewardship programs are a self-selected group of people. Most site stewards are older, retired individuals or couples who are interested in archeology and concerned about the loss of archeological sites. For the most part, these people have some working knowledge of archeological resources in the region and are at least aware of the scope of factors that negatively affect sites. In most cases, prior interest and awareness motivates volunteers to contact stewardship programs.
Although volunteers are often drawn to site stewardship programs through their interest in archeology and concern for the protection of archeological sites, loss of motivation is always a concern. Volunteers are not paid, and are therefore recruited from a small subset of the population. The population base for potential volunteers is further constricted by the desire and ability to donate time to monitor sites. Loss of volunteers can be devastating because most site stewardship programs have little time or funding to devote to recruitment and advertisement.
Loss of volunteer motivation occurs in two different ways: 1) the stewards feel that their abilities are underused and undervalued, and 2) the stewards are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a program. Programs have implemented measures to curb both of these types of losses.
To prevent stewards from feeling that their time and efforts are underused and undervalued, many stewardship programs actively involve volunteers in the planning and operation of the program. By involving volunteers in integral aspects of program management, volunteers feel that they have a stake in the program. In many programs, stewards are invited to attend program meetings and presentations and are incorporated into the local archeological community. Stewards can be trained as public educators and site docents. Some stewards are invited to attend regional conferences, and report various aspects of the stewardship program’s progress and initiatives. Stewards are invited to attend meetings with land managers and state and federal officials. Stewards can also participate in other fieldwork activities under professional supervision, such as special recording projects (e.g. documenting rock art panels), site damage assessments, land surveys, and site stabilization. Many stewardship programs, including Arizona Site Stewardship Program, New Mexico SiteWatch Program, and New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves, actively involve volunteers in the planning and operation of the program.
Regular communication between site stewardship coordinators and volunteers greatly enhances the volunteer experience as well as the efficiency of the program. Interaction with archeologists and other people trained in cultural resource management is one of the most important things that volunteers seek and respond to in site stewardship programs. Volunteers should have a great deal of personal contact with program administrators and should get face-to-face feedback on their contributions to the program. Personal contact was cited by several program coordinators as the most important factor in volunteer retention rates.
In addition, opportunities to socialize are an important reason why people are attracted to particular volunteer opportunities and then maintain their commitments to these programs (Wuthnow 1998:149; Rochon 1998:102). Site stewardship programs should recognize that volunteers want to belong to a community. Activities outside of monitoring duties are often a welcome and necessary addition to stewardship programs.
Site stewardship programs should keep volunteers abreast of the progress towards program goals. Volunteers should also feel that they are a part of a formal evaluation process for the program. The Alutiiq Museum site stewardship program in Alaska asks that stewards complete a written evaluation form at the end of each year. Statistics on the sites that were monitored over the year are also provided to stewards so that they can see the impact that they have made towards site protection.
Site stewardship programs walk a relatively thin line between providing activities and projects to interested volunteers, and overwhelming volunteers with duties. More often than not, there is more work to be done than there are paid employees to do it. Volunteers can find themselves shouldering time-consuming tasks if stewardship programs do not acknowledge that too much work reduces motivation to participate. Most programs surveyed mentioned that they make paperwork as simple as possible. In addition, most stewards are only required to visit sites once a month or less. In some programs, stewardship activities can be shared with another individual or family.
Involving Families as Volunteers. In addition to individuals, programs such as the Alutiiq Museum site stewardship program encourage families to participate in stewardship activities together. The San Juan Mountains Association site stewardship program in Colorado hopes to initiate a family-oriented site stewardship program that involves activities for both adults and children. Family stewardship activities may help volunteer retention, spread the good word about the protection of archeological sites to young people, and add to the community-building aspects of the stewardship program.
8. Volunteer Benefits & Recognition
Volunteer recognition is critical to recruiting and maintaining site stewardship volunteers. Although volunteer work itself is reward enough for some volunteers, most people want to be recognized for a job well done. Studies indicate that volunteer retention is higher in programs that monitor volunteer activities and reward volunteer service (Field and Johnson 1993:1629; Schwartz 1977).
Monitoring volunteer hours is an important way to recognize individuals and indicates that the program values the time that volunteers invest. If volunteers are not differentiated by the number of hours they put in, their contributions are not stimulated by positive reinforcement and volunteer motivation may slip. Volunteer hours should be acknowledged as a gift to the program.
Volunteer recognition does not have to be elaborate or take a large portion of the program budget. Events such as appreciation picnics, potlucks, and other types of low-budget get-togethers sponsored by the stewardship program are easy and effective ways to communicate appreciation to volunteers. In addition, most programs recognize volunteers in program publications.
Awards or presents to volunteers should be personalized to reflect individual contributions. Again, these items do not need to be expensive to convey gratitude. For instance, the Alutiiq Museum site stewardship program gives volunteers a small gift with a hand-written note to acknowledge their participation in monitoring activities that year. Some programs, such as the Arizona site stewardship program, have formal awards ceremonies to recognize volunteers. Although these ceremonies represent more of a monetary investment, they create an arena for acknowledging volunteer efforts to the wider community.
Many programs provide additional benefits to volunteers to demonstrate appreciation. Benefits indicate that the volunteer has achieved a certain status that is worthy of recognition. Some programs give volunteers t-shirts, pins, and patches for their service. The Arizona site stewardship program pays conference fees for volunteers to attend the Historic Preservation Conference. In programs such as the Nevada Site Stewardship program, volunteers have workman’s compensation insurance as agency volunteers.
Underwater Archeological Site Stewardship Programs
Up to this point, the discussion has focused on site stewardship programs that monitor archeological resources on land. Although underwater site stewardship programs are not as prevalent as terrestrial programs, they represent an increasingly important element of comprehensive protection of archeological resources. Many underwater site stewardship programs were developed in response to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 and its advisory guidelines that encourage development of shipwreck preserves and cooperation between government agencies and the interested public in management and protection of shipwreck sites. Guidelines on volunteer programs recognize that such programs can be an efficient, effective and economical way for agencies to identify, evaluate and protect publicly-owned shipwrecks, and can enhance and nurture existing partnerships between the agencies and the public. These programs are similar to terrestrial site stewardship programs in many ways, but also differ in several critical areas.
First, due to specialized training and equipment requirements, fewer volunteers are recruited into underwater archeology stewardship programs. Underwater programs require volunteer stewards that are certified divers. Diving certificates are not difficult to obtain, but present a barrier to volunteer recruitment. Dive safety concerns can pose a larger issue to underwater stewards than more general access concerns faced by stewards of sites on land. Diving equipment and vessels are expensive and, in many cases, have to be supplied by the volunteer. As such, fewer sites can be monitored and they are monitored less frequently.
Volunteer retention in underwater archeological site stewardship programs appears to be higher than terrestrial programs. Most likely this is due to the small initial numbers of volunteers, strong ties with a diving community, and the desire of the volunteer to participate in diving activities. The enthusiasm of recreational divers is a great asset to programs that operate on minimal budgets.
Underwater archeological resources are difficult to protect because they generally cannot be seen from the water surface. Violators are hard to catch and the monitoring activities of stewardship programs pose little threat to potential looters. In addition, most people are aware of laws forbidding trespassing and artifact collection on land, but are unfamiliar with laws pertaining to submerged archeological materials. Submerged archeological sites are threatened by the public perception that materials found in rivers, lakes, and oceans are general property. This “finders keepers” mentality poses a serious risk to underwater archeological sites.
Finally, underwater archeology program coordinators indicated that state support for program initiatives is both essential and lacking. The low frequency and severity of state sanctions against looters has not been affected by the relatively high level of damage to underwater sites. Underwater stewardship programs also receive little state or federal funding and spend more time soliciting donations than terrestrial programs run through government agencies.
Recreational and heritage tourism stimulated by shipwreck preserves and trails provides much needed attention to underwater stewardship programs. In the case of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Program (RIMAP)(Robinson and Taylor 2000:111-113), the discovery of the HMS Endeavor was the catalyst for public concern over the protection of underwater archeological sites in the region. For the stewardship program operated through the New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves, the discovery of the Land Tortoise initiated the development of a shipwreck preserve system. The Texas Historical Commission established its Marine Stewards Group as a result of diver public interest generated from the State's recovery of French explorer Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle's ship La Belle from the waters of Matagorda Bay.
Stewardship on Private Lands
Although the majority of site stewardship programs operate on public lands and waterways, some programs protect archeological sites on private lands. These programs are generally run through the SHPO and may include partnerships with other state and local agencies. Some programs use volunteer site stewards to monitor archeological sites on private lands through agreements with the landowners. In other programs, landowners agree to become stewards of archeological sites on their land.
Site stewardship programs on private lands are important. More laws exist that protect archeological sites on state and federal lands than private lands. For this reason, it is essential that archeologists register sites on private land holdings and make efforts to protect them. In addition, the states of the northeast and southeast mostly consist of private land holdings and thus cannot support site stewardship programs focused exclusively on public lands (e.g., Robinson and Taylor 2000).
Programs that use volunteer stewards to monitor archeological sites on private lands are less common than programs that involve the landowner as a site steward for several reasons. First, landowners are often reluctant to allow access to their land for monitoring. Land ownership is a staunchly protected American right and, in general, the public is wary of legislation that affects personal property. Many landowners fear that the government will seize their holdings or severely obstruct what they do with their land if archeological sites are discovered. This attitude presents the largest barrier to the implementation of archeological stewardship programs on private land (Henderson 1989; Simon 1994). Second, since the sites monitored are on private land, site stewardship programs often do not have the access to funding, administrative support, and resources available through partnerships with state and federal land management agencies.
The Alabama Site Stewardship program illustrates the difficulty of implementing a stewardship program that uses volunteers to monitor sites on private lands. This program, run through the Alabama Archaeological Society, suffered from a lack of administrative support and local interest. To counteract these problems, former staff from the Alabama program suggest that new programs should find a federal, state, or private institution to provide both funding and administrative capabilities. The Alabama program was also troubled by avid artifact collectors who trespass on both public and private lands. With a limited budget and staff support, landowners and archeologists were overwhelmed with the job of preventing the damage caused by these people. The stress and additional time necessary to run a program on private lands stymied the Alabama program, which is no longer active.
Site stewardship programs that actively involve landowners in the protection of archeological resources on their lands are much more successful than those that do not. These programs rely on incentives from local and state governments to join the stewardship program. Sanctions and restrictions against landowners, nicknamed “big stick” methods of site protection, are often met with hostility and prove ineffective in the long run (Simon 1994).
Incentives can encourage landowners to protect sites in several different ways. Some states offer tax credit and easement programs for landowners with archeological resources on their property (see Table 1). However, most programs use intangible incentives to their participants. The Kentucky Archaeological Registry, one of the first and most successful landowner stewardship programs, depends heavily on small incentives to “do the right thing” and personal relationships with program members.
The Registry asks landowners to sign an agreement that they will do their best to protect archeological materials on their property, will notify the program if there are threats to the site, or if they plan to sell the property. In return, participating landowners receive support from the Kentucky Heritage Council to maintain and protect their sites. In addition, participants receive periodic newsletters with updates on program activities and archeological research in the region. The program maintains contact with landowners through the year via newsletters, thank you notes, and periodic visits. Regularly scheduled follow-up visits with notes and gifts to landowners help to sustain participation in the program (Henderson 1989).
The Kentucky Archaeological Registry program has met with great success mostly due to its emphasis on building relationships between members of the public, the state, and archeologists. Landowners are enjoined to protect their sites through positive reinforcement rather than negative sanctions. Although landowner agreements are not legally binding and do not transfer when the property is sold or inherited, few people breach these contracts once they consent to them (Henderson 1989). Personal ties to the archeological community and education about the threats to sites and the importance of preserving their sites help solidify participants in the program.
Site stewardship programs on private lands play an important role in protecting sites and involving the public in cultural resource protection. They prove that archeological sites can be effectively monitored through a relatively small monetary investment and that site conservation does not always require land purchases. These programs will be increasingly important in the coming years as more land is developed and sites are put at greater risk. For detailed information on how landowners can become involved with the protection of archeological materials on their property, visit the National Park Service’s Strategies for Protecting Archeological Sites on Private Lands. In addition, the Archaeological Conservancy is involved with the protection of archeological sites on private lands nationwide.
The Limits of Volunteerism
Site stewardship programs have become the extra eyes for federal and state land managers who are strained under limited budgets and staff. However, volunteer labor cannot be relied on as a permanent part of long-term site maintenance strategies. The success of stewardship programs should not prevent government agencies from allocating more money for cultural resource protection. In addition, there are numerous tasks that volunteers cannot do and stewardship programs must rely on the expertise of professional staff.
Volunteers cannot be expected to visit extremely remote sites due to the cost, inconvenience, potential danger, and liability of sending them into these areas. Most volunteers want to monitor sites that are reasonably close to where they live. Although sites close to developed areas often have the highest risk potential, coverage near concentrated population centers is often much better than more remote areas. As a result, many programs that monitor large tracts of public lands have an uneven distribution of stewardship volunteers, leaving some areas unmonitored. Paid or volunteer professionals typically monitor sites that take a long time or intensive effort to visit. However, these people often engage in monitoring activities in addition to a variety of other tasks they are required to do. Lack of staff and funding often means that remote sites are virtually unprotected.
Some archeological resources should be monitored by professionals because they are too fragile or may require special expertise, such as sites with human remains. For these resources, either the paid or volunteered time of a professional archeologist is needed. In addition, some activities such as site stabilization and land surveys require professional assistance. Volunteers can be sent unsupervised to monitor sites, but cannot participate in specialized activities by themselves.
Site stewards cannot, and should not, perform the duties of law enforcement officials. Although site stewards are charged with protecting site information and reporting the condition of sites to program coordinators, they are civilians who have no official authority to stop on-going site damage. Volunteer training sessions should emphasize that stewards have no legal capacity to make arrests or give citations for looting or vandalism. Intervening in a crime can be extremely dangerous. If a steward witnesses damage to a site, they should immediately report it to local authorities and their site stewardship coordinator.
There are distinct limits to the use of volunteers to monitor and protect archeological materials. Although volunteers do a tremendous job, they are not a comprehensive solution to preservation problems that plague many areas of the United States. Under inadequate budgets, volunteers shoulder the responsibilities that should be allocated to paid employees. Site stewardship programs that depend heavily on volunteers are one sign of a deficient budget for cultural resource protection.
The success of any archeological site stewardship program depends on the perseverance of its staff and the commitment of its volunteers. The great assets of volunteer labor, particularly when funds for site preservation are limited, far outweigh the liability of using unpaid workers. Most programs rely on the donated time and resources of professional archeologists, land managers, and civilian volunteers. Because of this dependence on volunteer labor, even the most motivated programs may fail without sufficient funding, planning, oversight, and care of the volunteer force. None of the programs included in this survey had sufficient budgets or staff to accomplish their goals fully. To succeed, site stewardship programs need to be flexible and plan well beyond their own establishment.
As the many successful site stewardship programs in the U.S. demonstrate (see Table 1), site stewardship programs are effective at preventing the destruction of archeological sites through vandalism and looting. Many programs noted that levels of site destruction were reduced through a combination of public education, site steward liaisons to the local community, and advertising that the areas are monitored. Site stewardship programs will become more important in the future as development, outdoor recreation, looting, and other threats to archeological sites increase.
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Acknowledgements: I researched and wrote this technical brief while I was a National Council for Preservation Education intern with the NPS Archeology Program, Washington, D.C. This brief would not be possible without the assistance of D. Kathy Abbass (Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Program), Debbie Corbett (The Alaska Heritage Stewardship Program), Mary Estes (Arizona Site Stewardship Program), Ray Fahlsing (Michigan State Park Stewardship Program), Gregory Haynes, Eva Jensen, and Sali Underwood (Nevada Archaeological Site Stewardship Program), Ruth Lambert (San Juan Mountains Association Cultural Site Stewardship Program), Beth Padon (California Archaeological Site Steward Program), Teresa Paglione (Alabama Archaeological Society Site Stewardship Program), Dennis Palm (Ventana Wilderness Alliance Heritage Resource Site Stewardship Program), Giovanna Peebles (Vermont Archeological Preservation Easement Program), Amy Steffian (Alutiiq Museum Site Stewardship Program), Alanah Woody (Nevada Rock Art Foundation Site Stewardship Program), Phillip Young (New Mexico SiteWatch Program), and Joseph W. Zarzynski (New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves/ Bateau Below, Inc.). Michele Aubry, S. Terry Childs, Barbara Little, Francis P. McManamon, and Karen Mudar provided thoughtful reviews of this brief. NPS Archeology materials such as the E-Gram on site stewardship programs and the Caring for Sites webpages provided a starting point for my research. Most importantly, I am grateful to Barbara Little for suggesting the topic of this brief and for serving as my mentor throughout my internship. All errors, omissions, or oversight remain the responsibility of the author.