Thanks for your interest in the Utah Cultural Site Stewardship Program (UCSS) managed by the Utah Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).. If you’re here, you probably already know that Utah’s archaeological sites are under threat of damage from human and natural causes, and you may already be familiar with what site stewardship is. If you are one of the knowledgeable few, join up and become a Site Steward!
For everyone else, read on to learn what Site Stewardship is, why it matters, and what you will do as a Site Steward!
What is Site Stewardship?
All of us, whether we’re hikers, OHVers, archaeologists, climbers, or campers, have a responsibility to take care of not only the natural environment, but the cultural environment as well. Becoming a Site Stewardship is a great opportunity to help protect public lands and cultural resources by monitoring archaeological sites for damage.
Utah’s Sites Are Important!
A lot of people find deep value in archaeological sites. Living descendants of past people use archaeology to connect with their heritage, archaeologists use sites to study how people lived in the past, and recreaters love the sense of beauty, mystery, and human connection that archaeological sites provide. We need to preserve these sites so that future generations can have the same experiences! There are so many positive reasons to preserve and protect our shared human history. Really the only question left, is how?
What do Site Stewards Do?
The SHPO Statewide Coordinator will work with Site Stewards to identify a site that matches interests, abilities, and geography, then the stewards commit to monitor that site several times a year. Stewards are trained by professionals on how to “read” an archaeological site: they learn about the history and artifacts of their site as well as the subtle (and not so subtle!) clues that indicate a site is under threat. Site Stewards are the first line of defense as we protect the past!
What Threats Do Archaeological Sites Face?
Specific threats fall into two main categories: natural and human-caused. While it’s true that natural threats occur through natural processes like erosion, we still want to monitor what’s going on. Sometimes sites become destabilized and pose a threat to people, other times the loss of that site may be too great and stabilization work or archaeological excavation will take place. Human-caused threats are archaeological resource crimes: any action that damages or destroys sites, or theft on any scale are all illegal and they all hurt a site’s integrity. We monitor these sites to help law enforcement find the culprits, to repair damage when possible, and to give land managers the information they need to take care of archaeological sites on behalf of the American people and as a global network of cultural stewards.
If you’ve read this far, you would probably make a great Site Steward! You can click here to sign up. Once you’re in, you’ll work with professional archaeologists to identify which site is right for you to monitor, then you’ll go out with them and learn all about it! You will be joining a great community of dedicated volunteers. Being a site steward is a fun way to get outside and help protect the past, and we know you’re going to love it!