Nevada Archaeological Sites Stewards:
The Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer has created a full-time, permanent position for a statewide Site Steward Program Coordinator who hosts at least four annual training sessions. In the BLM Carson City District alone, there are over 70 site stewards monitoring about 60 sites under the direction of two volunteer regional coordinators who have contributed more than 1,400 volunteer hours over the past five years. The Nevada program hosts at least four annual training sessions. More information is available on their website: http://www.nevadasitestewards.org. BLM Contact: Tom Burke, BLM Nevada Deputy Preservation Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Who Volunteers? Site stewards come from a number of backgrounds and represent citizens who are interested in preserving the cultural resources in their area. One does not need any particular expertise to volunteer, as training is provided. Often, public land visitors learn of the program when they contact BLM about a vandalized site. Their interest and determination to help is all they need to qualify.
Once volunteers become interested, often they become enthusiasts, giving long hours to the program. Shirley and the late George Craig of St. George, Utah, for example, started documenting ancient rock art in evenings and on weekends. Soon their daughter Amy became interested and before long, they were named regional site steward coordinators. Their work was recognized by the State of Arizona and in the National Making a Difference volunteer awards ceremony in 1999. Ray and Juanita Huber of St. George, Utah, performed more than 6,000 hours each over seven years as regional site steward coordinators. They also advised Utah and Nevada as these states set up programs modeled after Arizona. Their contributions were recognized last year at the National Take Pride in America Awards ceremony in Washington D.C. BLM volunteer Alvin McLane recorded more than 120 separate cultural sites in the Dry Lake Area of northwestern Nevada, where he started a full scale monitoring program. He was recognized in the BLM’s Making a Difference volunteer award ceremony in 2004. Countless site steward volunteers receive local recognition as well. For example, Darrel and Terry Wade recently received recognition by BLM’s Ely, Nevada, District Office for their exceptional contributions in starting a state-wide program.
Learning the Ropes: Training Site steward volunteers attend training courses to prepare them for field work. While this includes training on cultural history and archaeology, much of the instruction focuses on field techniques, survey and mapping, using a compass and important safety issues. In some areas, volunteers must learn about desert survival and dealing with hazards such as military ordnance, abandoned mine shafts and possible illegal activities in remote areas. But this does not deter them.
What Do Site Stewards Do? Site Stewards keep an eye on archaeological sites in danger of vandalism or natural deterioration. With so many sites, monitoring priorities must be set. Generally, sites deemed most vulnerable are given highest priority. These are typically large, easily accessible, or prominent, known sites.
Their mission is to monitor conditions of the resources and report these to a professional archaeologist with jurisdiction over the site. They use observations, field notes, drawings, and/or photography to record changes over time. By detecting changes early on, problems can be addressed more efficiently. In Nevada, site stewards detected four unauthorized uses of archaeological resources in the first 18 months of the program.
Site Stewards also assist in surveying and mapping. They even collect oral histories in some cases. Many site stewards provide educational outreach programs that increase awareness of the importance and lasting value of cultural resources, and encourage understanding and respect for the cultural diversity of the area.