Lakecaster Online

Archeological sites threatened


If you're collecting artifacts from public lands, you are probably breaking the law. U. S. Forest Service Supervisory Law Enforcement Officer David Norsworthy wants people to know that it is a violation of federal law to take arrowheads, pottery, or other artifacts from public lands such a those managed by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service.

Norsworthy said, "The Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA-Title 16, U. S. Code, Section 470) protects our nation's archeological, cultural, and historic objects and sites." According to Norsworthy, ARPA prohibits, among other things, the excavation, removal, damaging, altering, defacement, or the attempt to do so, of archeological resources located on public or Indian lands without a permit issued pursuant to this statute and federal regulations.

The officer said, "This means that you cannot dig from, remove or damage artifacts or structures associated with early settlers, the early logging industry or Indian settlement on these public lands. In some instances, the ground itself may be a protected archeological resource."

Criminal penalties for violations of this statute are up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, reimbursement of the costs of restoration and repair of the damaged resource plus archeological value, and the forfeiture of all personal property used in violation, such as boats, 4-wheelers, trucks and digging equipment. Additionally, civil penalties may be imposed.

Norsworthy said, This is a general intent statute. You do not have to know that you're on public or Indian lands. These protected lands, sites and resources do not have to be signed to be protected. No one can give you permission to relic hunt on these lands without going through the proper permit process. Rewards up to $500 are given to individuals that provide information that leads to the conviction of violators," he said.

According to Norsworthy, since early January, several cases of archeological site vandalism and artifact theft have been presented to the U.S. Attorney's office.

"Most folks don't intentionally take the artifacts knowing that they are harming an archeological site, but others know they are violating the law, and they search and dig illegally on public lands and create personal collections or sell the objects to collectors," said Norsworthy.

Malcom Bales, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, says he will prosecute these cases. "Our office has a zero-tolerance policy toward individuals who intentionally take away historic treasures. Those folks face severe penalties including felony convictions up to two years in prison as well as substantial fines," Bales said.

Norsworthy said, "Archeology teaches us about the past, and when sites are vandalized, part of the past is destroyed.

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