Local nonprofit receives National Preservation Award

FREDONIA, Ariz. - The Kaibab Vermilion Cliffs Heritage Alliance (KVCHA) announced last week that it received a Preserve America Steward designation in a letter signed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

"It's not every day you get something in the mail from the White House. But last week, a large envelope arrived with that return address," said Rose Houk, KVCHA coordinator.

Houk said the letter announced the group's designation as a Preserve America Steward, "for all that you do to care for our Nation's important historical resources." The award went on to say that "President Obama and I are proud of your efforts and we applaud your achievement."

Preserve America Stewards, part of a national initiative of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the U.S. Department of Interior, and other federal agencies, is a designation program that began in 2008 to recognize programs that have demonstrated "a successful use of volunteer time and commitment in order to help care for our historic heritage," according to the program's Web site. The site lists only 13 programs besides KVCHA as having received the stewardship designation. KVCHA is a nonprofit whose mission is to help preserve the cultural resources of the eastern Arizona Strip region.

Houk described the alliance in this way: "Part of the effort involves lending a hand to land management agencies on archaeological field projects. A dedicated group of site stewards, volunteers, and students serve as crew on the projects with the Arizona Strip District of the Bureau of Land Management, North Kaibab Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Canyon National Park, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The Flagstaff-based conservation group, Grand Canyon Trust, provides logistical support."

Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor, who first came up with the idea of the alliance, had this to say of the stewardship designation: "I am more than heartened by the response to this idea. People care deeply about this amazing place and its cultural heritage. Professionals and volunteers alike have given more than their fair share of time, energy, and concern toward preserving this unique heritage."

In recent years, KVCHA has partnered with the North Kaibab Ranger District to perform work on the Warm Fire Recovery Project, the Passport in Time project, at a field school for university students studying archaeology, and in the Saddle Mountain Wilderness.

In six field projects during the alliance's first three years of existence, Houk said volunteers have given more than 2,500 hours of time, and covered several thousand acres of land. After receiving orientation from professional archaeologists, she said, volunteers typically walk many miles each day, sometimes in challenging terrain and weather, camping at night under "less-than-luxurious conditions."

"Still, they keep coming back, their loyalty and labors essential to learning about and ultimately protecting irreplaceable cultural sites over the vast acreage of the Arizona Strip," Houk said.

To learn more about the Kaibab Vermilion Cliffs Heritage Alliance, go to www.grandcanyontrust.org/kane/kaibab-vermilion-cliffs.php, or contact Rose Houk at (928) 779-2962 or mpcreh@msn.com.

For additional information on the North Kaibab Ranger District, please contact Patrick Lair, Public Affairs Specialist (928-643-8172).

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