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Archaeological resource protection remains an important management concern on public lands in the U.S. Southwest and beyond. While legislation and educational programs have contributed to a general improvement in public attitudes toward cultural heritage, archaeological resources on public lands remain vulnerable to a variety of human impacts. We present results of a condition and damage assessment of 96 prominent precontact sites on the Tonto National Forest (TNF) in central Arizona. We summarize field methods and observations and discuss their implications for the management and protection of archaeological resources on the TNF and other public lands. Sites at varying distances from roads were assessed in an effort to identify potential relationships between damage frequency and road proximity. Field results indicate that (1) unauthorized damage occurs more frequently at sites near TNF roads; and (2) economical measures like advisory signage provide potentially effective means of deterring unauthorized damage to sites in higher risk locations. Our findings add to a knowledge base important for understanding patterns of damage and site vulnerability and for developing practical protection strategies in line with public land missions and administrative capabilities.
Regional planning is an essential element of comprehensive archaeological management programs. Most regional planning efforts in archaeology focus on predictive modeling to distinguish areas based on the likelihood of encountering archaeological resources. We discuss a complementary approach that uses known sites and expert opinion to identify spatially explicit cultural resource preservation priorities. Loosely analogous to biodiversity conservation planning, priority cultural resource assessments provide an evolving vision of an archaeological reserve network which, if managed appropriately, could protect a significant part of our cultural heritage. We outline an efficient approach to identifying spatially explicit Priority Areas within portions of Arizona and New Mexico. This information complements assessments of individual site eligibility for purposes of listing on the National Register of Historic Places by providing an added layer of regionally contextualized information at larger geographic scales. By establishing priorities, this information can also enhance cultural resource considerations in local, state, and federal land use planning. While our consideration of significance is based on the potential information content of the resource, we argue that this planning process can easily incorporate other cultural resource values and help to address preservation actions in support of this broader set of values.
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