Ar­chae­ol­ogy rules split ranch­ers, tribes

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Ryan Ran­dazzo

A bill to help cat­tle ranch­ers more eas­ily in­stall wa­ter tanks and fences on state lands has drawn the ire of ar­chae­ol­o­gists and tribes who say their an­ces­tors’ graves are at risk.

The bill is spon­sored by David Cook, R-Globe, who runs a cat­tle ranch.

He said state re­quire­ments are overly bur­den­some for ranch­ers, who must pay to have their land sur­veyed for ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites to al­low them to do the ba­sic tasks nec­es­sary for rais­ing cat­tle.

The sur­veys re­quire ranch­ers to ne­go­ti­ate a bu­reau­cracy that slows down sim­ple projects such as in­stalling wa­ter lines, he said.

The Se­nate ap­proved the bill on a 1612 party-line vote Mon­day with two se­na­tors not vot­ing. It must go back to the House for fi­nal ap­proval be­fore it goes to the gov­er­nor.

Cook told the House Land, Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Af­fairs com­mit­tee dur­ing a Feb. 8 hear­ing on the pro­posal that he be­lieves the State His­toric Preser­va­tion Of­fice, which over­sees ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sur­veys, is over­step­ping its au­thor­ity.

“This is go­ing to be an an ex­am­ple where we have not reined in or tight­ened up rules and stuff where some­one is op­er­at­ing out­side the bound­aries,” he said.

House Bill 2498 would al­low ranch­ers to sim­ply move their projects 50 feet away from sus­pected cul­tural sites to avoid dig­ging them up.

Cook said ranch­ers need­ing to build sev­eral miles of fence or wa­ter line could scout the route for ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites and if they see some­thing that looks like it could such a site, they could sim­ply move the work.

The bill also would re­quire the State His­toric Preser­va­tion Of­fice to cre­ate a stream­lined process for re­port­ing his-

tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant ar­ti­facts or sites.

The new law would al­low any­one who has com­pleted a na­tional cul­tural re­sources train­ing pro­gram to con­duct such sur­veys.

To­day, the State His­toric Preser­va­tion Of­fice part­ners with other state agen­cies to pro­tect his­toric sites. Cook and other sup­port­ers of the bill said the re­quire­ments for get­ting land sur­veyed for sites have grown in­creas­ingly com­plex and bur­den­some.

Such sites are gen­er­ally pro­tected, but even get­ting some­one to iden­tify po­ten­tial sites holds up projects, they said.

Op­po­nents are con­cerned that could lead to un­trained vol­un­teers misiden­ti­fy­ing an­cient dwellings or grave sites and dam­ag­ing them to clear trees or build cat­tle tanks.

Sen. Jamescita Pesh­lakai, D-Cameron, is a mem­ber of the Navajo Na­tion and spoke against the bill Mon­day.

“I was raised near the Lit­tle Colorado River,” she said. “My fam­ily’s home­lands were within what is now Wu­patki Na­tional Mon­u­ment. I grew up herd­ing sheep, rid­ing horses, rais­ing live­stock among the ruins of that area. We were taught not to bother these ar­eas be­cause those were the homes where long-ago peo­ple lived.”

She said ar­chae­ol­o­gists who stud­ied the ruins were able to share valu­able in­for­ma­tion with Navajo peo­ple, and that all ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites de­serve such re­spect.

“As Na­tive Amer­i­cans, these his­toric sites need to be taken care of when they are dis­cov­ered when they are be­ing opened up for de­vel­op­ment,” she said. “They need to be taken care of by the peo­ple that are trained that get four-year de­grees from uni­ver­si­ties.”

She said she has two fam­ily mem­bers work­ing as ar­chae­ol­o­gists.

The Navajo Na­tion did not of­fi­cially reg­is­ter in op­po­si­tion to the bill. But the Co­co­pah In­dian Tribe, Gila River In­dian Com­mu­nity, Pas­cua Yaqui Tribe, Salt River Pima-Mari­copa In­dian Com­mu­nity and To­hono O’Od­ham Na­tion all op­posed it,though on Mon­day the Gila River tribe changed its po­si­tion to neu­tral.

Con­ser­va­tion groups and dozens of in­di­vid­u­als also reg­is­tered op­po­si­tion.

Sup­port­ing the bill are the Ari­zona Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion and Ari­zona Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said no sites will be dam­aged as a re­sult of the bill.

“The prob­lem is there is a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion out there on this bill,” Allen said.

Bob Prosser runs a ranch between Flagstaff and Winslow. He spoke in fa­vor of the bill at a Fe­bru­ary hear­ing.

He said ranch­ers face grid­lock when try­ing to nav­i­gate the state agen­cies to com­plete sim­ple projects such as fences on their range, which he called “process paral­y­sis.”

“I as­sure you our ranch and cat­tle in­dus­try that asked me here to­day is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing the re­sources, and cul­tural re­sources are a very im­por­tant one of them,” Prosser said.

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