Groups Respond to Cultural Resources Thefts on Public Lands

Jun 10, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the conservation and cultural resources community applauded the Department of Interior for taking action in response to archeological thefts, stressing however that opportunities exist to improve management and protection of our public lands that are rich in cultural resources.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Department of Interior has taken law enforcement action in response to a theft of archaeological and cultural artifacts from public and Indian lands in the Four Corners Area.

“This is a strong statement on behalf of our public lands, but it also points out how much work we need to do to make sure our cultural heritage is safeguarded,” said Kevin Mack, National Landscape Conservation System Campaign Director at The Wilderness Society. “It seems especially timely because Congress just recently created this spectacular culturally rich system of lands, known as the National Landscape Conservation System.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, long active throughout the nation in highlighting the threats to our rich cultural heritage, expressed support and encouraged a strong vision for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the Conservation System.

“Stealing irreplaceable artifacts from public lands robs the nation of its rich cultural heritage, and we applaud the Interior Department's swift actions today,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This law enforcement action is a clear indication of the seriousness with which the Obama Administration treats its responsibility as steward of our public lands. Unfortunately, theft is just one of the many threats to cultural resources on America’s federal public lands. Today’s announcement is a positive step towards protecting and preserving these resources for the enjoyment of future generations, but we need additional funding to bolster law enforcement efforts across our vast network of public lands.”

The mission of the National Landscape Conservation System is to conserve, protect, and restore these nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations. On March 30, 2009, the National Landscape Conservation System was permanently established by law.

Brian O'Donnell, Director of the National Conservation System Foundation in Durango, Colorado, praised law enforcement officials and the efforts of the Interior Department.

"While we are disheartened to learn about the theft of cultural and historic artifacts on our public lands, we commend our public land managers and law enforcement agencies for their work to defend our heritage," said O'Donnell. The rich cultural resources found in the National Landscape Conservation System are important to our nation's history and should be respected by all Americans."

This is a joint release by The Wilderness Society, National Conservation System Foundation and National Trust for Historic Preservation.