Wilderness Connect, housed on the University of Montana campus, acknowledges that we are on the traditional lands of the Salish and Kalispel peoples, who have stewarded this land throughout many generations and are its past, present, and future caretakers.
The Cultural Resources toolbox is a ‘work in progress’ and represents information available to date on this subject. To suggest new materials for inclusion, email Lisa Ronald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This toolbox contains material pertaining to the stewardship of cultural resources in wilderness. It is not a comprehensive site for finding all materials necessary for managing cultural resources elsewhere. In addition, because of the many cultural resource laws and recent court findings, it is important to keep in mind that different agencies -- and different geographical regions in our agencies -- have interpreted the finer points of cultural resource management in wilderness differently. Be sure to check with you Regional or State Offices.
Basis in the Wilderness Act
The Wilderness Act states in Section 2(c)(4) that wildernesses "may contain features of scientific, educational...or historical value."
Where present, cultural resources are part of this "unique" quality of wilderness character. Of the hundreds of wilderness areas that Congress has designated, many, but not all, are rich in cultural resources. Cultural resources have not been identified in some areas, and their presence is clearly not required for an area to be wilderness. But where those resources have been identified, they may be among the most important reasons for designating the area as wilderness.
Recent court cases seems to be interpreting the "historical value" as in the use of these lands, not in the remnants left behind. And, certainly, the historical use of the area is an important contribution to this unique quality as well - a use that often stretches from the far distant past right up to today, and into the future.
And yet it does not make sense to believe the wilderness character of North McCullough Wilderness would be enhanced by obliterating its petroglyphs, or the wilderness character of Mesa Verde enhanced by removing the cliff houses. In fact, when the Wilderness Act was first introduced in 1956, it contained a list of suggested areas which included the entirety of Mesa Verde National Park except for those portions "required for roads, motor trails, buildings, and necessary accommodations for visitors." Clearly, when originally envisioned, wilderness areas could contain stabilized structures of historical value.
In addition, surely the presence of cultural resources contributes to the outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation. For some visitors, few experiences are more exciting than being in a wild place and coming across the remains of a former life - from an Archaic lithic scatter to a homesteader’s cabin.
There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between cultural resources and wilderness. We've seen, above, how cultural resources can enrich wilderness. On the other hand, wilderness is sometimes the most beneficial land use allocation for protecting cultural resources, because it is there that these resources have been -- and continue to be -- farthest from the ravages of modern technological civilization.
Cultural Resource Laws
These are not the only cultural resource laws -- only the ones that are particularly applicable to managing cultural resources in wilderness.
- Antiquities Act (1906), the genesis of laws to protect and manage heritage resources on Federal lands
- National Historic Preservation Act (1966, as amended through 2006), creates Federal procedural requirements
- American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978), outlines inherent right of freedom of traditional religions
- Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979 & 1988), strengthens provisions in the Antiquities Act
- Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990), regulates disposition of human remains and associated funerary objects
The Difference Between Historical Value and Historical Use
Regulation & Interagency Policy
These regulations and policies apply to all agencies. The citations listed are far from comprehensive, but are those of particular importance to the intersection of cultural resources and wilderness.
- 36 CFR 60 and 36 CFR 63, pertaining to the National Register of Historic Places
- 36 CFR 65, pertaining to National Historic Landmarks
- 36 CFR 79, pertaining to the curation of collections
- 36 CFR 800, pertaining to the consultation requirements when actions by Federal agencies may affect a historic property
- 43 CFR 3 and 43 CFR 7, pertaining mainly to the permitting process as a way to protect cultural resources
- 43 CFR 10, pertaining to the implementation of NAGPRA
The Standards for the treatment of Historic Properties are "neither technical nor prescriptive, but are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect our Nation's irreplaceable cultural resources." Many of the details of these standards would not apply to historic properties inside wilderness, and they cannot, in and of themselves, be used to decide how to treat a particular property. "But once a treatment is selected, the Standards provide philosophical consistency to the work." The Standards are found in 36 CFR 68 and detailed in the guidelines for preserving, rehabilitating, restoring, and reconstructing historic buildings.
These are of particularly important for managing cultural resources in wilderness.
National Register Bulletins
For Regulatory reference, see 43 CFR 7(a)(1).
These are not the only BLM resources for cultural resource management, just the ones most pertinent to managing cultural resources in wilderness. Be sure to check with your State Office for additional guidance.
- 43 CFR 6302.18, wilderness regulations concerning cultural resources
- Manual 6340 1.6.C.5, wilderness policies concerning cultural resources
- Manual 8100, Foundations for Managing Cultural Resources
- Manual 8110, Identifying and Evaluating Cultural Resources
- Manual 8120, Tribal Consultation
- Manual 8130, Planning for Uses of Cultural Resources
- Manual 8140, Protecting Cultural Resources
- Manual 8150, Permitting Uses of Cultural Resources
- Manual 8170, Interpreting Cultural Resources for the Public
Be sure to check with your Regional Office for additional guidance.
Sections of wilderness manual concerning cultural resources
- FSM 2360 Heritage Program Management