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The National Strategy for Federal Archeology
Francis P. McManamon

Reproduced from CRM 19(6):17, 1996

America's archeological heritage, the sites from her historical and prehistoric past need protection. Like rare and endangered species, some kinds of archeological sites are threatened with extinction. The number of archeological sites from bygone times never increases, it is only reduced, by modern development, by looting, even by the very best of modern archeological research. It is important that we make the most of the sites that we have left, preserving as many as possible so that future generations of Americans will also have access to the unique information that htey hold.

In March 1990, the Secretary of the Interior directed the heads of bureaus and offices within the Department of the Interior to emphasize the sound use and preservation of archeological sites that they manage, or that their programs affect. In this message, and a subsequent policy statement in 1991, the Secreatry identified several areas to stress in Department of the Interior programs. This document, known as the National Strategy for Federal Archeology, has been used by managers, archeologists, and other historic preservationists throughout and outside of public agencies to support a variety of archeological programs and activities. The officials of other federal agencies, specifically, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Energy, and the Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authroity, have endorsed the national strategy to focus more attention upon these kinds of activities.

Federal agencies spend tens of millions of dollars every year identifying, analyzing, and preserving archeological sites. We need to continue these important efforts, and to improve them whenever it is possible. Based upon government reporting on federal archeological programs and activities, the national strategy emphasizes activities in several areas for special concerns: public education and participation in archeological activities or programs; making use of archeological data for public purposes; interagency cooperation in fighting archeological looting; more interagency information exchange; improving our inventory information about the location, significance, condition, and threats to archeological sites; and improving the long-term use and preservation of archeological collections and records.

The Interior strategy has identified important topics for focusing archeological activities and programs. We hope that by emphasizing these general topics, preservation, protection, and interpretation efforts will be improved and better coordinated among public and private organizations dedicated to archeolgoical preservation activities. The loss of America's archeological heritage diminishes all of us and future generations. There is no quick fix to the challenges that the national strategy has identified. Public agencies, the archeological profession, private associations, and citizens must provide for archeological preservation as an important part of their activities and programs. The National Park Service looks forward to cooperating in these activities and programs in many ways.