Message #35:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Wildfires and Prehistoric Artifacts in Utah
Date: Sat, 18 Jan 1997 07:15:35 -0700
Encoding: MIME-Version: 1.0

[Can anyone provide additional factual information on this report ? --

Utah wildfires uncover ancient artifacts

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Wildfires that burned tens of thousands of acres
of brush across the west Utah desert this summer uncovered a bonanza of
ancient American
Indian artifacts that had been hidden by overgrowth.

Archaeologists have persuaded the federal Bureau of Land Management to
postpone reseeding, tree removal and other fire rehabilitation work to
give them more time
to search for additional sites and artifacts.

"The fire went across there and that exposed more of the ground,
exposing stuff that in large part we didn't know was there," said Dave
Henderson, the Richfield area manager for the BLM.

Henderson said few of the sites involve structures. "What we're seeing
is are things like flint chipping stations, or maybe the remnants of a
fence," he said.

Some of the artifacts, however, appear to be "very, very old; predating
even the Fremont or Anasazi cultures."

The delay involving nearly 182,000 wildfire-scorched acres in Millard
and Juab counties was ordered after Eugene Romanski, an archaeologist
helping BLM survey the
area, complained that inspections for artifacts were inadequate.

"A couple of our (in-house) archaeologists were developing the same
concerns," said Garth Portillo, the BLM's state archaeologist in Utah.
"They were just starting to
compile their data and saying 'Oh my. We didn't expect to find the
densities and distribution of artifacts we're finding.' It's worth
another look."

Henderson said that now it's a matter of finding the best way to protect
the sites while still rehabilitating the burned-out areas.

The BLM had hoped to remove dead vegetation and then seed the area with
grasses and shrubs to stabilize the soils and reduce widespread erosion,
said Richfield district manager Jerry Goodman.

Before proceeding, federal law requires BLM to check rehabilitation
areas for "cultural resources," such as dinosaur bones or the artifacts
left by American Indians and Western pioneers.

BLM brought in 25 archaeologists to help inventory sites identified as
most likely to have artifacts.

Romanski, 36, of Southern California, was one of them. He thought BLM's
process violated several laws and "wrote off archaeological sites" of
historic value in
pushing the rehabilitation work.

"We're only being allowed to survey 20 percent of the burn area for
artifacts," he said. "You can't extrapolate from what we'd done in
sample surveys. That would be highly detrimental to prehistoric sites,
some of which are 8,000 to 10,000 years old and represent the nation's
older and least understood ... heritage."

He especially did not like the plan to use "chaining," dragging a thick
chain between two bulldozers to uproot dead pinon and cedar trees killed
by the fires.

Goodman, the district manager, did not hear of Romanski's opinions
firsthand. Romanski complained directly to agency officials in
Washington, to reporters and to
environmental groups.

"I didn't think (local BLM officials) would take any action and time was
of the essence," Romanski said. "It's always a fight for

Last Friday, state and federal authorities decided that additional
survey work was needed.

"Sample surveys said our basic assumptions about the archaeology of the
area were wrong," Portillo said. "We're trying to do the right thing
here and not go off
willy-nilly and be harmful to the resources and be sorry about it

A meeting has been scheduled for next week to go over facts, maps and
other  information.

Utah wildfires uncover ancient artifacts
Las Vegas SUN archives