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  Federal Archeological Permits

Federal agencies that manage land are responsible for the care and protection of archeological resources on these lands. All archeological investigations undertaken on Federal lands must be conducted under a Permit for Archeological Investigations (Permit). The Federal land manager’s authority for issuing a Permit is contained in statutes and regulations. Permits for Archeological Investigation may be issued under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), the Antiquities Act, or both. Some agencies also cite their own authorizing law(s) as an authority to issue archeological investigation permits.

The Permit is a legal document that spells out the nature and location of the archeological research that is permitted, the manner in which the research is to be conducted, where any material that is recovered and the investigation records will be curated, and under what conditions the project can be suspended.

Why is a Permit for Archeological Investigations Necessary?

When individuals conduct archeological activities or otherwise disturb archeological resources on Federal lands without a valid Permit, they are in violation of ARPA (16 U.S.C. 470ee, ff, gg), the Antiquities Act (16 USC 433), and other statutes. They are subject to criminal and civil penalties, including forfeiture of personal property. ARPA and its regulations detail the requirements for obtaining a Permit.

Who May Apply

Qualified individuals, academic institutions, museums, or businesses that propose to conduct archeological fieldwork on Federal lands must first apply for a Permit for Archeological Investigations. Permit applications are reviewed by Federal managers and archeologists. The general requirements are described in Federal regulations that are uniform for the major land managing agencies. For archeological investigations on Department of the Interior lands, the general requirements can be found in Chapter 43 Code of Federal Regulations 7.5 and 7.6 (43 CFR 7.5 and 7.6). The issuance of a permit is dependent upon the scope of the proposed work; consistency of the proposed work with resource management plans and policy; adequacy of curatorial arrangements for any collections and records; and the qualifications of the applicant(s) (43 CFR 7.8).

How to Apply

  • Contact the Federal land manager of the area where you propose to work
    An initial consultation with Federal agency staff can save time later in the permit application process. Contact information and information about conducting research on Federal land are often available on agency websites.

  • Preparing a permit application to conduct archeological investigations on Federal lands
    Federal land managers may direct potential applicants to discuss the proposed work with agency archeological staff. Federal land managers may also require potential applicants to participate in consultations with affiliated Indian tribes if the land manager determines that the proposed fieldwork involves sites that have religious or cultural importance for the Indian tribe.

If the initial discussions are fruitful, an application for a Permit for Archeological Investigations is prepared and submitted by the applicant. Applicants interested in conducting archeological investigations on Department of Interior land should submit the information using the Application for Permit for Archeological Investigations, (DI Form OMB No. 1024-0037), or a form supplied by the Federal land manager. Please note that the same application form is used to apply for a Permit for Archeological Investigations under ARPA, the Antiquities Act, or both. Applicants interested in conducting archeological investigations on other Federal lands must contact the specific Federal land manager for application procedures.

In addition to the completed application form, supplemental information is required. Information about these additional documents is provided on page 2 of the application for Permit for Archeological Investigations.

Depending on the nature of the investigations, additional permits from the Federal land manager may be required.

Permits for Archeological Investigations on NPS Lands

The National Park Service has prepared a detailed instruction guideline regarding the issuance of Permits for Archeological Investigations in units of the National Park system. This guide includes information that will be useful to applicants, NPS managers, and archeologists who review applications and monitor the conduct of archeological investigations done under permits.

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