Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who Owns The Land?

As an Arizona Site Steward it is important to know whose land I am traversing. I have agreements with all the land agencies (BLM, Forest Service, County and State Trust) so this information is not as vital to me as it might be to someone who is accompanying me.

An agreement with various land agencies means I have medical coverage IF something untoward happens to me. It also means I am not trespassing!

Knowledge of landownership is imperative in Archaeology also, as one does not want to do something on land or be on the land without permission from the landowner.

But knowledge of landownership can be a problem in Archaeology and in Site Stewarding. Let me give you a few examples.

BLM asked me to check out a site in the San Pedro River Valley. I took a fellow Site Steward with me. Yikes! There was damage to this site. We determined the damage was due to cattle trampling through and over a wall. BLM was notified and given the UTMs for the damage. Their reply: “The UTMS show this is State Trust land!”

Another: Several of us monitor sites along the Cienega Creek, area owned by the County. We crested a hill and noticed an excavation in progress. We had not been notified about this excavation, as is usual practice. We went to the excavation area and talked with the PI for the project and we were told this site is State Trust land, and not County. The PI showed us the Permits for the excavation. Only a few acres of land not owned by County within thousands!

Here is a biggie: After 3 grueling months of negotiations with a landowner in Colorado the PI had the legal “go” for excavation for the field school. The first day of the dig our PI was approached by a man who said, “What are you doing on my land?” The PI said she had permission from the landowner to excavate. He said, “I have NOT given that permission.”

This land sat on 2 county lines so the PI sent staff to the 2 county seats to view all the landowner records. Yep! The land belonged to the 2nd landowner! Lucky for us he was thrilled with the excavation and agreed to let us continue. Gee, he even provided dinner for us one night. The 1st landowner was not happy when informed the land was not his!

As you can see from these 3 examples Archaeology and land ownership can be tricky!

And in Arizona we get into ownership of land on top (surface) and land under (subsurface)! I won’t even touch that one!

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