This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Valerie Hauser: In 2011, the ACHP adopted the Native American Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan because we had been seeing a growing number of Section 106 cases involving large scale historic properties that we were hearing about, primarily from tribes but also from Native Hawaiians that were not being adequately acknowledged or understood in the 106 process.
This came out of discussions, too, that Nancy Brown and I had been having. We’d been brainstorming about this for a few years. It seemed like the right time to take some action, rather than look at this in a case by case manner through the 106 process, to look at this more globally, take a more programmatic approach to this So, the council members adopted this plan. The plan is available on our webpage The plan was intended to do two things. It was to raise awareness, that there are these kinds of places, and promote their protection. IT is also intended, for the ACHP and our partners in the 106 process, to begin addressing the challenges in the 106 process and considering these kinds of places.
We are really pleased to see changes such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) embracing landscapes and addressing them, and then the Army Corps of Engineers following suit. That is exactly what we were hoping would come out of creating this dialogue about cultural landscapes. Steve DelSordo, the FCC federal preservation officer, and FCC, deserve recognition for all of their innovative work.
In the action plan there are a number of tasks and recommendations that the ACHP makes and has been carrying out. For instance, we did create a webpage that is like a portal or a place where we are collecting information about landscapes. It includes what the ACHP is doing and what others are doing as well as resources.
The ACHP also developed a guidance document in a question and answer format. Itis brief but is about how landscapes fit in the Section 106 review process. It just answers basic questions. We recognize that there is a lot more work that needs to be done to address landscapes and that a lot of what Barbara Wyatt, in the National Park Service, is working on will help resolve some of the issues and will provide the kind of guidance and advice that practitioners need. While we have, at this point, only developed some very basic guidance, we have available a number of other related guidance pieces and development. We have been working with the National Register, for instance, on the revisions to Bulletin 38, because a lot of the comments the Park Service has been receiving relate to the Section 106 process.
With the Administration’s energy and infrastructure construction push, threats to landscapes increased. All of the things that the ACHP is working on and the things that you are hearing about today contribute to better understanding of how to work with traditional cultural landscapes.
There is also a general concern that comes primarily from federal agencies, but other partners in the Section 106 process as well. The concern has to do with the sheer size of some of these landscapes and all. Large historic properties. It is actually not a new concern in the 106 process. “If it’s that big how am I going to manage it?” Or, “How am I going to avoid effects to it?” We are seeing that concern more prominently now because these landscapes are generally very large. The other issue, which Steve did allude to, particularly, when he was talking about the Upton Chambers property, is the general lack of experience with understanding or working with these kinds of places and with traditional cultural knowledge.
Steve’s example was very eloquent in how that issue worked out on the ground. Nancy has some case examples that she will talk with you about, where both of these issues come into play and how, in Nancy’s case, the Bureau of Land Management has addressed these issues. Those seem to be two of the primary issues that we see coming out of work with traditional cultural landscapes. I want to turn it over to Nancy now. Nancy has some really interesting case examples. Nancy.
Nancy Brown: Thanks Valerie. Before I go to those examples, I also wanted to mention that, at the Advisory Council webpage, we now have a link on the homepage, on the left hand side near the bottom that will take you to another page called Energy Transmission and Historic Preservation. While the documentation there does not specifically address cultural landscapes, many of the documents do address the difficulties and the challenges of dealing with these large sites. I would also just give a shout out to the BLM. We have their link on that page to their Internal Best Management Practices for Reducing Visual Impacts of Renewable Energy Projects. This is three hundred pages of guidance on dealing with texture, color, use of vegetation, and other things like that, in order to minimize effects as the energy projects are being developed.
I would also say that in the course of the last two to three years I’ve seen a number of projects start to address visual effects. I think these effects are one of the big challenges for cultural landscapes. I believe the BLM and the Park Service worked jointly in contracting to get the Old Spanish Trail inventoried and to take a look at possible visual effects from development. Two transmission lines that I’ve worked on – Sigurd to Red Butte in Utah, and Boardman to Hemingway in Oregon and Idaho – have each developed a methodology to take a look at visual effects to cultural landscapes and other sites.
The projects that I just wanted to touch on today are varied. They are all related to energy and they all deal with landscapes in some way. The first one, Ocotillo Wind, is in California. The BLM acknowledged that the tribes had identified a traditional cultural property and assumed, in this instance, the National Register eligibility of that property. As part of the mitigation, there was ethnographic work done to more specifically address the eligibility question. There was also continuation of a prehistoric trail study that would further inform the eligibility issue, and videotaping and documentation of some of the traditional areas and the traditional songs that are significant to that area.
That was one way that the cultural landscape was being addressed. In the case of the West Tavaputs area, which is a gas and oil project that affected the Nine Mile Canyon in Utah, the primary effect to that cultural landscape was dust. I should also say that it was dust from the high volume of traffic that would be traveling on a dirt road to get to the area where the gas and oil was being developed. The historic properties that were eligible for the National Register are petroglyphs, and there was a multiple property nomination done for the rock art. The term “cultural landscape” was never used in this project. The rock art was developed over centuries, in some kind of habitation in or visitation to the area. By using the multiple property nomination for the rock art, the landscape and the boundaries of the particular landscape were not defined, but the area as a whole was.
A third example is in California and called Imperial Valley Solar. One of the challenges there was a congressionally designated national historic trail, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. The problem in that case was that there was no physical evidence on the ground of that corridor. After much consultation it was acknowledged that this was the congressionally designated route, but that there would be no effects to it by this project, based on the lack of any physical evidence.
The fourth example is the Paradise 230 KV Transmission Line and the Shell Ultra Gas and Oil Buildout Project, in Wyoming These were two separate projects, both having an adverse effect to the Lander Trail. In this instance, a compensatory mitigation plan was developed that funded the acquisition of the river crossing of this trail from a willing private owner. This has become the only trail river crossing that is accessible to the public in the state. The local historical society handled the acquisition, holds the deed, and manages the land.
I’ve got other examples too, some are not tied as tightly to energy and transmission issues. One that I’d just like to mention is the Topock Remediation Case, on the California/Arizona border. This is a water pollution issue, like the Erin Brockovich case and movie that many of you will know about. This was a Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup site. It is a pollution site thatis required to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, it’s in the middle of a traditional cultural property, which is the portal to the afterlife for a tribe in that area. It was determined to be eligible for the National Register in this consultation. But it was acknowledged that the boundaries fell outside of the project area and that they would not be defined as part of this project. That’s another way that large cultural landscapes are being handled in the Section 106 consultation.
So, I think that’s it for me, Valerie do you want to mention Cape Wind?
Valerie: Yes, Cape Wind is another example – thank you, Nancy – of being confronted with deadlines and a potentially very large historic property that the federal agency and its Section 106 partners did not have time to fully identify. The decision was made to acknowledge that “Yes, there was a landscape here.” The boundaries of the landscape would need to be determined at some future point, but clearly this project was right smack in the middle of the landscape and would adversely affect it. I think Nancy’s point, that this is happening more and more, is true. I think that for a number of reasons. I don’t think folks are trying to avoid going through determinations of eligibility, but I think those determinations are one of the challenges that we’re confronted with when you have really large places. There may be time constraints, funding constraints, jurisdictional constraints, what have you, that make it challenging to fully identify and evaluate these places.
Barbara Wyatt: I have a question about the Paradise Transmission Line and the last point you made. With the boundaries being outside the project area and they are not defined; what is the repercussion of that? Is that a positive or a negative or not? How is that meaningful in the long run?
Nancy: That’s from the Topock example. I don’t know that it’s a positive or negative. I just know that many agencies and State Historic Preservation Officers are struggling with how to address this boundary issue. What we’re finding is that sometimes the best way forward is to recognize the entire landscape in some way, but only to deal with the piece that is on the table for this project.
I think this is a step along the path of doing better identification of our cultural landscapes and their boundaries. I think that ten years ago we wouldn’t have considered that option.
I bring these up as examples. I invite anybody from Wyoming who wants chime in on the Lander Trail Case and how that was handled, to do so.
Richard Currit: It was a pretty interesting case and it was a really good mitigation package. About the only other thing I can add beyond that is on June 20th and 21st there will be a celebration in Pinedale, Wyoming to celebrate the opening of the interpretive park there and also to celebrate the listing of the Green River Drift.