Volunteers inventory cultural sites in fire area

A volunteer surveys the Warm Fire site on the North Kaibab Forest, looking for cultural sites.

A volunteer surveys the Warm Fire site on the North Kaibab Forest, looking for cultural sites.

Ten volunteers from Grand Canyon Trust joined North Kaibab Ranger District archaeologists last month to locate heritage sites in the Warm Fire area.

The volunteers spent a week locating sites in areas where the fire's heat and subsequent sediment flows had damaged or buried artifacts, primarily from Puebloan farms that date back about 1,000 years.

"It was a very successful project. We completed a lot of survey, which will help us identify and prioritize sites for stabilization," said Erin Woodard, a student archaeologist on the North Kaibab Ranger District who coordinated the field effort for the project.

The Forest Service recently awarded the district's heritage resources program $25,000 in special emergency rehabilitation and restoration funding, which the district will use this fall to protect and stabilize some of the highest-priority sites found by the volunteers.

Stabilization measures focus on using downed trees and other material to divert water and sediment flows around archaeological sites, and seeding with native plant species.

Woodard, a graduate student in resource management at Central Washington University, said that a side benefit of the project was the opportunity to work with experienced archaeologists and volunteers, many of whom were also members of the Arizona Site Steward program.

Site stewards are volunteers trained and certified by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Governor's Archaeology Advisory Commission.

Volunteers monitor prehistoric and historic archaeological and paleontological sites for destruction or vandalism.

Site stewards are also active in public education and outreach activities.

"The Arizona Site Stewards bring such a wealth of knowledge and skills to a project like this," she said.

The project was sponsored by the Kaibab-Vermillion Cliffs Heritage Alliance, a group formed last year to help protect and preserve the cultural resources of the Arizona Strip.

Alliance members include Coconino County, the Bureau of Land Management's Arizona Strip District, Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon National Park, Northern Arizona University, Museum of Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon Trust.

Grand Canyon Trust provided logistical support for the project, while North Kaibab Ranger District archaeologists instructed and supervised the volunteers in archaeological field methods.

This volunteer project is one small part of the restoration effort in the Warm Fire area.

Woodard was a member of a team of forest and regional specialists that conducted an assessment of the Warm Fire area last summer.

One of the restoration needs the team identified was the prevention of further fire-related resource damage to heritage sites. To that end, the North Kaibab Ranger District has been working to locate, document and protect archaeological sites in the fire area.

"There are a lot of undocumented sites in the fire area, and in some locations fire effects were quite severe," Woodard said. "Also, most other recovery efforts are focused on vegetation, and this was an opportunity to give attention to heritage sites, which are non-renewable resources."

The district is planning additional volunteer archaeology projects for the Warm Fire area.

"Given the amount of work we need to do and our limited staffing, a lot of this survey work is going to have to come through volunteer efforts," Woodard said.

For more information about Warm Fire recovery efforts, visit the Kaibab National Forest's Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai. Contact Connie Reid or Britt Betenson at the North Kaibab Ranger District at 928-643-7395 formore information about volunteer opportunities in archaeology.

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