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NPS Archeology Guide > Cultural Resources and Wilderness

Cultural Resources and Wilderness

The Archeological and Other Cultural Resources and Wilderness module of RM 28A: Archeology (NPS Archeology Guide) provides agency-specific technical guidance for identifying and managing archeological and other cultural resources in wilderness. The National Park Service has argued in court (Wilderness Watch, Inc. v. Creachbaum) that the Wilderness Act does not mandate decay or destruction of all cultural resources in wilderness. It also argued that the National Historic Preservation Act does not require preservation of the material fabric of all cultural resources. This guidance is intended to assist in responsible and defensible decisions about the management of archeological and other cultural resources in wilderness.

Archeological resources are often a component of cultural resources, such as cultural landscapes, structures, and ethnographic resources. These resources contribute to the 5th quality of wilderness character - Other Features of Value. This quality acknowledges the unique contributions of specific cultural and natural resources to individual wilderness areas. The guidance is not prescriptive, but outlines considerations that can be flexibly applied to individual circumstances.

Archeological and Other Cultural Resources and Wilderness provides guidance for identifying resources that contribute to specific wilderness areas and including them in planning documents; and for managing those resources, including, where appropriate, preservation treatments or removal. It emphasizes the importance of consultation, thorough documentation of the decision-making process, and conducting a complete minimum requirements analysis. Law, regulations, Executive Orders, and NPS policy require this. Thorough documentation of cultural resource considerations, management decisions and justifications in foundation documents, planning documents, and minimum requirements analyses creates a record of responsible and reasoned decision-making.

The full title of this module is Archeological and Other Cultural Resources and Wilderness but, for convenience, has been shortened to Cultural Resources and Wilderness in online documents.

MJB