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Cultural and Historic Resources, Sacred Sites, and Land Management in the West

Sandra B. Zellmer, Public Land Law, Regulation, and Management (2003)

The federal public lands are well known for their vast natural resources: timber; range; minerals; watersheds; wildlife; and sweeping vistas of remarkable beauty and diversity. Their cultural and historic resources are equally notable. Some of the earliest withdrawals of public lands from homesteading, mining and other dispositions were executed in recognition of their cultural and historic importance.2

Conserving resources with cultural significance is critical to sustaining our national, collective heritage, as well as the viability of human communities that rely upon them for sustenance. Cultural resource protection, however, is sometimes at odds with other uses of the public lands. A compelling example can be found in the California Desert Conservation Area, where Glamis Imperial Corporation has proposed a plan to go forward with a cyanide heap-leach gold mine on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Advisory Council for Historic Preservation determined that the plan would adversely affect resources with religious and cultural significance for three federally recognized tribes, the Quechan Tribe, the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Ft. Mojave Indian Tribe.3 Although the Clinton Administration denied Glamis's plan, the Bush Administration reversed course and is reconsidering the proposal.4

This Article provides an assessment of