Archaeological Programs Targeted by State Budget Cutting
July 21, 2011 | by Dr. W. Frederick Limp, President of the Society of American Archaeology (SAA)

 Around the U.S., many states are facing budget woes and belt tightening is underway. In two states, however, the process has already disproportionately targeted archaeology. We thank Dr. W. Frederick Limp, President of the Society of American Archaeology, for this important update:

In Utah, the positions of State Archaeologist, Assistant State Archaeologist and State Physical Anthropologist were abruptly eliminated.  In New York, the State Archaeologist/Director of Cultural Resource Survey, the Curator of Archaeology, and the Curator of Historical Archaeology were fired.

In Utah the positions were in the Antiquities Section of the Utah Department of Community and Culture that has the “authority of the state for the protection and orderly development of archaeological and anthropological resources.”  In New York, the positions provide vital services to educators and the general public, and meet the requirements under state law that the State Museum keep its collection of historic artifacts usable and available in order to benefit the people of New York.  The three positions eliminated in New York are just the most recent losses—over the past twelve months, the State Museum has received a disproportionate share of staff firings, and has lost more than one-third of its research and collections staff with a particular focus on the elimination of senior archaeological staff.

While we can all understand the budget challenges that face the states, the decisions made in Utah and New York show a true lack of understanding by state decisions-makers about the role and value of archaeology, and they are also being penny-wise but pound-foolish.   In the Utah case, these professionals provided essential guidance to state and federal agencies, and preserved irreplaceable archaeological sites.  Among them, the three had decades of experience and knowledge about the state’s resources—the State Archeologist alone had held his position for 20 years.  In the New York case, in just the last four years, the museum’s research staff had received more than $12 million dollars in external research grants and $57 million in interagency agreements for archaeological studies prior to construction and other economic development activities.  In the New York case no one at the Museum, including the Director, was aware of the decision until the day the individuals received their pink slips!  

Many archaeological organizations have written the Utah and New York authorities.

Copies of the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) letters can be found at http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/GovernmentAffairs/UTAH.ANTIQUITIES.OFFICE.pdf and http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/GovernmentAffairs/NEW.YORK.pdf

Anyone who is interested in the protection of our nation’s irreplaceable archaeological resources should do everything they can to insure that their own state legislators and state government officials realize the critical role that experienced archaeological professionals play in protecting these resources, interpreting them to the public, and facilitating responsible economic development.

To comment on the cuts in New York State, send your letters to:

Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch
Regents Office
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234

Email: RegentTisch@mail.nysed.gov

To comment on the cuts in Utah, send your letters to:

The Honorable Gary R. Herbert
Governor
Utah State Capitol Complex
350 North State Street, Suite 200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2220

Email: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html

Comments

Cutbacks of this kind are always the result of ignorance on the part of the decision makers or if it is politicians doing the cutting whether there is a group that can be relied on to deliver votes in the future. It is great to write letters of concern, but when cutbacks come they come to those without a voice or to those who are most silent. Remember bureaucrats who make these decision usually have no concern for the job and even less concern for the people in the jobs. The last concern, of course, would be for what is unseen in artifact drawers and the huge museum collections that are not on public display. It is sad that the first cut on the block is to the past. It is mindless bureaucracy where the form is more important than substance of the damage they inflict.

We cannot afford to lose people who are so greatly assisting us in preserving what has been past human activity.  Shame on these tyrannical legislators.  Send them home and get them out of office forever.

The Utah archaeologists were instrumental in saving a newly discovered Native American site from being trashed by a railroad station. I believe that I remember correctly that the Physical Anthropologist had for years conducted an outreach program which was deemed irrelevant and rendered redundant. The agenda behind these firings is more than solving budgetary problems. Fraking rules in Utah.

Another example of no respect for our heritage.  Utah is the site of ancient human origins in America.  New York is also finding new historical sites, constantly.  I am definitely against this!

I will personally be glad to support them when they support me in recording sites and in talking about their plans after I report damage.  It's a two way street and we should work together.  Unortunately most BLM staffers choose not to.

Solve those issues and you will have my support.  There is one outstanding archaeologist that appreciates information that I pass along.  He's helpful, friendly, appreciative and responsive and he gets my attention.

I think more training is needed to be a well functioning archaeologist than an archaeology degree.  That training should be in workling with the public, answering emails, answering telephone calls, and treating the responsible US citizen with respect.

Again, let's support each other to the betterment of preservation.  That's workable, isn't it?

To learn more about ourselves,we must learn from our past.There is nothing more important!

I work in the area of Environmental Protection - we have the same financial problems and the solution is exactly as "Anonymous" describes. Organisations must keep i touch with activists in their various geographical areas and fields of specialty.  It is the ongoing passion of individuals and communities that will compell governments to pay attention to the wisdom of our predecessors.  The motto for us all most surely is "to learn more about ourselves, we must learn from our past".  Politicians of necessity are preoccupied with the present moment.

My personal thanks to the AIA for generously and regularly updating me online.  Living in Australia, my particular interest is the in the archeology of Central and South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and of course Australia.

Good Luck

Margaret Bolster AM

It is no doubt comforting to blame ignorant, tyrannical, and benighted decision-makers entirely for the problem, but that haughty attitude only makes it easier for appropriators to line-out expenditures for preservation when budget-cutting time arrives. I haven't learned enough about the Utah and New York situations to make comparisons, but suspect they might be similar to the one in Texas, where the Historical Commission is widely perceived as a bunch of rigid anti-development, anti-business activists who, like the environmental lobby, abuse their authority to thwart economic progress. During a good economy, businessmen and developers will tolerate, and even support, a certain degree of regulation. Once those regulators earn reputations as ideological (tyrannical?) obstructionists for obstruction's sake, however, they will soon discover how few friends they have in the private sector when the economy turns south. And like it or not, businessmen and developers shell-out the lion's share of taxes and political campaign contributions that pay for this whole shebang. So, before the budgetary devastation spreads further, we might want to consider how we in the preservation community contribute to our own demise.

I live in Missouri.

What's the current state-of-affairs with our cultural resource management programs? Are they ready to get axed to some degree or are they still side stepping a budget cut blow?

Can anybody who's informed give me a current assessment of where archaeological programs stand in the Show-Me State?

Thanks.

Those in charge clearly do not have any concern for the archaeological sites and artifacts in New York and Utah. Eliminating these positions will lead to further damage of fragile artifacts and sites that are currently threatened. Educational opportunities to teach future generations about their heritage will also be lost. I oppose the loss of these positions.

The legislators in New York and Utah clearly do not care about the fragile artifacts and threatened sites that will be lost without these positions. The educational value of museum collections will also deteriorate if left uncared for.  I am against the loss of these positions.

This is a violation of governmental policy

What a shame our National Heritage no longer is worth spending a little just to preserve and protect America's rich, cultural heritage unimpaired. Meanwhile, the SHPO's State Historical Preservation Officers and  State Archaeologists along with Federal Government Agencies such as the NPS National Parks Service actually are told by Congress and the State Legislatures to stop doing their own jobs and no longer be of any assistance. Yet, this same government of ours can afford to pay a National Memorial over 200,000 dollars to turn their backs on their own heritage as the EPA spends millions of dollars more to illegally dump our national historic sites down their superfund toxic waste repositories using federal funds without ever conducting the required Section 106 archaeological surveys and nobody even thinks it's such a bad idea despite having a portrait of the eligible national historic site even portrayed in the rotunda of our nation's capitol.

It's all about the money...Wow! What a waste it was trying to establish a National Historic Trail to 16th Century America when again nobody is authorized to care about such things, not even the State Archaeologists themselves. You want to be able to pay for such programs that only Archaeology is qualified to handle then just charge it to the trillions of dollars being wasted on pretending to clean up America's Superfund Toxic Waste Problems when all they do is dig it up in my own front yard only to go repollute our environment by dumping it right back down in somebody else's own backyard and we the people might be able to provide public comment, however, nothing ever happens about the historical truth here. Not when the real truth of what's really happening to our National Heritage gets swept under the rug like yesterday's garbage. Cut funding and eliminate the State Archaeologists who aren't allowed to do their jobs anyways half the time, and may the bulldozers keep on trucking and continue to destroy our priceless historical past and any newly discovered archaeological sites eligible for inclusion on the National Historic Register. And that's another sore subject too, when even the Keeper of the National Historic Register is told to shut up and no longer be of any assistance either as to the performance of her duties as well. Want to blame somebody, it's the bureaucracy of American Government that is to blame here as well as the local, state and federal agencies themselves who are in charge of historic preservation. I agree with the anonymous person who stressed cooperation between the public, the state agencies and our federal government to include the politicians in charge who even told me first hand historic preservation wasn't her problem nor the problem of Congress. And where are Scholars when it comes to writting America's History Books? Why won't they take a stand as well especially when it matters the most? What a sore subject indeed. But if you want to be able to do your job in the State Archaeologists Office then maybe you should have stopped trying to sweep America's rich, cultural heritage under the Smithsonian Bus yourselves. It only goes to show these people in Washington that you're not really needed, and that a hand select few can decide what history gets saved and that which gets lost again and forgotten forever. So be careful for what you ask for, because it is a revolving door here the responsibilitiy to ensure we never forget our past. If you ask me, the State of Florida should be the next State Archaeologist to be put on the chopping block. How can anyone build a new administration office for the State Archaeologist on site of De Soto's 1539 First Winter Encampment and not even know the importance of that very same date let alone how to even spell the man's four letter name when they've been examining the relic under their own microscopes for almost three years now? Something's rotten here, and it's not in Denmark. Why even the Danes were ready, willing and able to help save America's rich, cultural heritage unimpaired when our own United States Bureaucracy was totally incapable or inept. But, hey if you think saving America's Past is still worth it, then by all means do whatever it takes especially when it matters the most, but don't come complaining you can't do your jobs when you didn't even when you could. The system is broke here and nobody knows how to fix it, and those that do know the real historical truth about what's happening they aren't authorized to care even if they wanted to. But, here's a little secret. The day our National Memorials are able to proudly say two simple little words for the preservation of America's rich, cultural heritage unimpaired again, Welcome Home, that's the day everybody involved will no longer have to fear about losing our National Treasures, let alone the jobs of the people we pay to enforce the laws that do protect our past. Their is a lesson here to be learned, eh. Stop dumping our heritage where the sun never shines, then maybe you'll have something left to preserve. Already, Uncle Sam thinks you're not needed anymore. And that's just the way our government wants it. No more Archaeologists to stand in the way of progress, if you can call the lining of your pockets with tax payers money and to heck with anything that stands in the way progress today. It takes courage to stand up to these people, and not even the SHPO, FLBAR, Museum of Florida History (for example) and the National Parks Service in particular has what it takes to even save a one inch piece of Spanish Silver, let alone some famous 1541 Discovery of the Mississippi River (for example again). Thank you. I've said enough I think. Two simple words and you'll get all the funding you could ever dream about. Welcome Home or forget about it. In that case you lose the same as our National Heritage will. If enough damage hasn't been done already. Amen.

No tax cut ever protected an archeology site, developed a new medicine, sent a space craft out to orbit.

No tax cut ever built or maintained a road, developed a national grid system for electricity, educated children or provided for the older citizens or disabled people.

Let us not go back to the days of our forefathers when there was slavery, no vote for women and no unions to negotiate for safety, health and living wages.

Revenues collected by the government do not evaporate. They go back into the economy for wages, materials and services that are unobtainable from private enterprise..

There are unwise choices by people in the government about how the revenues should be spent, correct those choices, make our government work well by voting wisely and making your  voices heard.

It is a shame that lawmakers in New York and Utah do not see the value of these individuals and the role that they play in protecting cultural resources. The lawmakers should be issued layoff notices not the archaeologists!

Sir, please give me the latest g.o of archaeological department?

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