Become an Arizona Site Steward

‘Leave only footprints and take only pictures’

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ruin with potsherds
The Arizona Site Stewards Program is an organization of volunteers, sponsored by the public land managers of Arizona, whose members are selected, trained and certified by Arizona State Parks, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Governor's Archaeology Advisory Commission. The chief objective of the Stewards Program is to report to the land managers destruction or vandalism of prehistoric and historic archaeological and paleontological sites in Arizona through site monitoring. Stewards are also active in public education and outreach activities.

The Site Steward Program’s Mission Statement is: “Site Stewards are volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving cultural resources and the heritage of Arizona.”

I have been a Site Steward since 1999 and am assigned to monitor sites in the Cave Creek region. The sites we monitor are not publicized, but some of them are marked with a sign stating it is an archeological site and the penalties for vandalism.

Yes – there are penalties for the destruction of our nation’s archaeological heritage. When artifacts are removed, a piece of America’s story is gone forever. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) calls for land managers to issue permits for archeological work, create public outreach programs, survey for archeological evidence and document site damage. ARPA sets criminal penalties at a $10,000 fine and/or a 1-year imprisonment. If the value of the resources involved exceeds $500, penalties increase to $20,000 and/or 2 years in prison. For a second or repeat offense, penalties are $100,000 and/or 5 years in prison. Anyone who damages, digs up, removes, sells, or buys archaeological resources can incur these penalties. Sadly, this does not apply to private land.

The Cave Creek area was occupied prehistorically from about A.D. 700-1450. There are literally hundreds of archaeological sites in the Cave Creek region. Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area alone has over 100! From the Tonto National Forest on down the whole Cave Creek watershed are numerous small prehistoric villages.

I’m saying all of this because a few days ago I was monitoring a site in the program, on the west side of the town, and discovered extensive vandalism. This site had been looted and vandalized in the past but now a very large potsherd pile has been created, no doubt from digging up an entire room.

I implore my fellow citizens to protect our heritage, not destroy it. Future generations should be able to see something other than a rock pile. Interested in archaeology? Join the local Desert Foothills Archaeology Society. Become a Site Steward! We implore people to “leave only footprints and take only pictures.”

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