A Message from President Bill Lipe
Since January the archaeological and historic preservation communities have
been busy persuading Congress not to make drastic cuts in national programs
that protect archaeological resources and enhance public understanding of our
rich and diverse archaeological heritage. The events that have transpired since
the beginning of the year have underscored the important role that SAA and
others must play in formulating public policy and influencing those who are in
positions to make decisions. The success of our efforts so far has depended on
several factors: educating members of Congress and their staffs about the
federal role in archaeology, collaborating with our colleagues from the
historic preservation community, and generating grassroots communications from
individuals who are concerned about the country's archaeological resources.
While these efforts have enabled us to avoid drastic reductions, now is not the
time to relax.
As a result of spending many hours visiting offices on Capitol Hill, I have concluded that while the interest in archaeology and historic preservation among many members of Congress is genuine, it does not run deep. This means we must continue to contact our members of Congress and explain to them the vital role that the federal government plays--in partnership with the states--in protecting and managing our archaeological heritage.
I encourage all of you to keep communicating and developing a dialogue with your senators and representatives. We can't just contact them at appropriations time and then disappear. As a constituent, tell your members of Congress about important sites in your area and how interpretation of these sites enhances the understanding of your area's long-term history. Make archaeology real for them--invite them out to a site and show them why archaeology is important to their community and the nation. Don't limit your efforts to federal policy makers; contact your state and local politicians and share archaeology with them too.
With your help we can become better advocates for archaeology and archaeologists. I can't express enough the importance of your involvement as a constituent in the political process. Become active, contact your members of Congress and local and state politicians, and share with them the wonders of archaeology.
Bill Lipe is president of SAA.
Update on Interior Appropriations
In September, the House and Senate conferees reported out the fiscal 1996
Interior Department spending bill (HR 1977; Conference Report 104-259) and sent
the report to the House and Senate for their consideration. Subsequently, the
House voted to send the bill back to conference with instructions to continue a
moratorium on granting "patents" to mining companies. The conferees had adopted
Senate language, which would have lifted the moratorium, but a group of
fiscally conservative Republicans along with some Democrats joined forces to
send the bill back to conference. The moratorium, first enacted as part of the
fiscal 1995 Interior Department bill, prohibits hard rock mining companies from
purchasing federal lands at prices as low as $2.50 an acre.
The conferees agreed on a total spending limit of $12.1 billion for the Interior Department agencies and cuts to many programs, including those that benefit archaeology and historic preservation. Although slightly higher than the amounts provided in either the House or Senate versions of the bill, the amount appropriated in conference for fiscal year 1996 is still 10.4 percent less than the $13.5 billion provided in the fiscal 1995 Interior spending bill. In the conference committee recommendations, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation receives $2.5 million, which is down from its 1995 appropriation of $2.947. The appropriation for cultural programs in the National Park Service is down from $19.041 in fiscal year 1995 to $18.519. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cultural resource programs receive $11 million in fiscal year 1996, down from $12.037 last year. The National Endowment for the Humanities takes a big cut from the $146.131 million it received in fiscal year 1995; in the conference report, NEH received $110 million. The appropriation for the Forest Service's heritage program is down from $14.589 in fiscal year 1995 to $13.565 for fiscal year 1996. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's appropriation in the conference report is $3.5 million, down from its 1995 level of $6.9 million.
When and if the bill passes Congress, the next step in the legislative process is the president's desk for his signature or veto. The Clinton administration has already stated that it will veto the bill because of major concessions to mining, timber, and livestock interests, as well as significant reductions in funding for Native American programs. The president's veto threat is based less on funding levels than on the Republican policy initiatives included in the bill. For example, the conferees agreed to eliminate the Interior Department's National Biological Service, which many Republicans view as a base for advocates of the Endangered Species Act. The administration also opposes provisions ending the moratorium on mining-land claims and forcing the Forest Service to implement a land-use plan that could greatly increase timber cutting in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.
Request for Information in Anticipation of Oversight Hearing on NHPA
The House Resources Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and
Lands--chaired by Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah)--plans to hold an oversight
hearing on the National Historic Preservation Act sometime this fall. According
to subcommittee staff, this hearing will focus on a number of issues pertaining
to the NHPA including: streamlining the Section 106 process, re-evaluating the
significance of archaeological sites and traditional cultural properties,
protecting private property rights, and the reauthorizing of funding for the
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
An oversight hearing is a congressional review of the way that federal agencies implement laws to ensure that agencies are carrying out the intent of Congress and to inquire into the efficiency of the implementation and effectiveness of the law. The subcommittee's oversight hearing could result in proposed amendments to the act. SAA is taking this hearing very seriously and has asked to be invited to offer testimony.
In anticipation of preparing testimony for a subcommittee hearing, SAA is asking for your help in collecting data on the above issues. In particular, we are interested in any information or examples that you can provide concerning the following topics:
I would like to thank those of you who have already provided information and samples of products that have resulted from archaeology done in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act; but in order to adequately prepare for the oversight hearing, it is important to hear from a wide range of individuals from around the country. You can send information or examples to me at SAA headquarters: 900 Second St., N.E. #12, Washington D.C. 20002-3557, (202) 789-8200, fax (202) 789-0284, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to ascertain who are your members of Congress and how to contact them, please write me at the above address.
Donald Forsyth Craib is manager of government affairs and counsel of SAA.