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Wilderness and Cultural
Resources: Symbiotic
Pei-Lin Yu
Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit
March 6, 2013
At Issue:
How best to balance management of cultural resources in wilderness?
Neither answer is correct: both sets of laws apply
equally in wilderness.
Medicine Wheel, Wyoming
Lower Logging Lake Boathouse, Glacier NP
Yet conflicts do arise…
--Between cultural resource and wilderness managers, as
well as special interest groups and members of the public.
Is there a way to work together in such a way as to
avoid conflicts before they go to court?
A strong point of
intersection for shared
wilderness values and
cultural resource values is
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO
The Qualities of Wilderness Character
1. Untrammeled
2. Undeveloped
3. Natural
4. Outstanding opportunities for solitude
or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation
(the above contribute to all wilderness)
FIFTH QUALITY: “Other features, based
on the last part of Section 2c, “Definition
of Wilderness,” in the Wilderness Act,
that a wilderness “may also contain
ecological, geological, or other features
of scientific, educational, scenic,
or historical value.”
(the Fifth Quality makes each
wilderness distinctive)
Grave of un-named slave.
Cades Cove, Great Smoky
Mountains National Park
fit into the
Fifth Quality
and speak to
qualities of
Traditional Cultural Property, Spirit Mountain Wilderness, NV
--But how do we define cultural resources?
“Cultural resources” is a managerial term used by federal
NPS: archaeological sites, ethnographic resources,
cultural landscapes, and historical structures and sites.
BLM: archeological sites, Native American traditional
items, historical objects or documents, or even cultural
uses of the natural environment.
US Forest Service: remnants of past cultures.
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966: Historic
Properties are legally defined "any prehistoric or historic district,
site, building, structure, or object included in, or eligible for inclusion
on the National Register"; such term includes artifacts, records, and
remains which are related to such district, site, building, structure, or
object” (16 U.S.C. Section 470(w)(5).
Balcony House courtyard,
Mesa Verde NP
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966: Historic
Properties are listed, eligible, or potentially eligible to the
National Register of Historic Places because they meet one or
more criteria:
(a) associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad
patterns of our history; or
(b) associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
(c) embody distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or
that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that
represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack
individual distinction; or
(d) have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or
The characteristics that make a
cultural resource eligible to the
National Register likely
contribute to the unique qualities
of wilderness character.
Combining the expertise and
experience of cultural
resource experts and
wilderness managers allows
us to share information and
leverage capacities
toward better management.
Please Weigh In:
Think of a cultural resource or type of resource in a
wilderness area you know. Does it contribute to the
character of that wilderness?
If yes, how?
Please type your answer briefly into the Q&A pane. We will select a sample of
your answers.
Ice Patch Archeology and Paleoecology Project,
Glacier National Park 2010- present
Case study in unique
contribution of cultural
resources to wilderness
character, with a
climate change twist:
Ice Patch Archeology and
Paleoecology Project,
Glacier National Park
* Previously stable ice patches
contain perishable organic artifacts and paleobiological
remains in a ‘deep freeze’ for thousands of years
* These items contribute to wilderness character through their
representation of evolution of past ecosystems into today’s
wilderness, adding to our understanding climatic fluctuations in
the formation of landscapes, and connecting Native Americans
with traditional and spiritual linkages to alpine areas
Ice Patch Archeology and Paleoecology Project, Glacier National
Park (continued)
* Climate change is melting ice patches, exposing these items to destruction,
loss, and theft, with ramifications for resource stewardship and wilderness
* GLAC is partnering with Conf. Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Blackfeet Nation,
U.C. Boulder, U. of Wyoming, and U. of Arizona to protect and document exposed
items in culturally appropriate manner, and learn more about dynamics of ice
patches and contribution to today’s park ecosystem. Work is conducted without
impacts to wilderness character of the park.
--kudos to the Climate Change Response Program for funding this important
Case study in successful planning for
cultural resources through their contribution
to wilderness character:
Historic cabins in Zion Wilderness,
Zion National Park.
* Cabins contribute to unique character of ZION
through historical connection with early natural
resources science in the park, and integrity and
uniqueness of cabin feeling and construction
* Minimum Requirements Analysis of actions
needed to maintain those characteristics
Historic cabins in Zion Wilderness, Zion National Park (cont’d)
* Customizing actions to meet MRA and ensure that impacts to wilderness
character are minimal and temporary
* Placing actions in context of wider wilderness planning
* Implementing actions
--kudos to Jock Whitworth and folks at ZION for their successful collaboration!
When conflicts appear…
*Keep communicating.
*Include a broad array of expertise
and stakeholders.
*Document, document, document.
*seek common ground and work
toward the hard stuff
*be creative; leave no option off the table
*if adverse effects cannot be avoided to a
cultural heritage resource, there are options.
-- Minimizing adverse effects
-- Mitigating for adverse effects (did I mention, be
-- Cultural resources people have this tactical knowledge.
Talk to them!
--Thank you! Questions?