Skip to Main Content or Skip to Navigation

Protecting Archaeological Treasures

Public lands throughout the West are facing increasing demands from oil and gas development, off-highway vehicles and other activities that collectively degrade the natural qualities of lands managed on behalf of all Americans. As part of this landscape, archaeological sites represent thousands of years of human adaptation to unique Western environments, with each site and every artifact unfolding answers to the mysteries of how prehistoric humans lived in concert with their ever-changing environment, and how human survival in this harsh region depended upon man’s ability to understand, respect and recognize the limitations of that environment. In short, archaeological resources represent an irreplaceable and non-renewable resource that offers insights into our own survival on this remarkable landscape.

As identified by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in a 2005 policy statement, natural and human landscapes found on public lands are interrelated, and the preservation and management of these values should be integrated to ensure that cultural values are afforded equal consideration. The archaeological community has long viewed environmental protection as a means to limit human impacts on archaeologically sensitive areas and to protect important sites from impacts of proposed development. The Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance (CPAA) seeks to protect and preserve human landscapes of national significance by working cooperatively with governmental entities, developers, private land owners and conservationists.

Quick Jumps:


Organization Activities

CPAA represents the formal creation of an advocacy organization comprised of individuals who have informally worked to preserve cultural resources over the past several years. These efforts have been focused primarily on pro bono assistance to non-profit organizations, as well as preservation-oriented research and working with legislative and regulatory officials to protect sensitive landscapes. CPAA is also involved in ongoing research that provides a quantitative and legally defensible analysis of the relationship between vehicle access and archaeological site vandalism.


Organization Structure

CPAA has two full-time registered professional archaeologists, one of whom also manages the day-to-day activities of the organization and is answerable to a 13-member board of directors, all with considerable non-profit, business or scientific credentials. In addition, CPAA is advised by an ad hoc group of archaeologists, historians, environmental scientists, businessmen and attorneys who have pledged their assistance to CPAA, each with a specialized expertise that can further the CPAA mission.

Advocating on behalf of these historic and archaeological treasures, and without influence from industry interests or governmental entities, CPAA is dedicated to advocacy through sound, legally defensible science that can be utilized to minimize, mitigate and potentially eliminate the threat of damage to cultural and environmental resources that are threatened by various activities on public lands. And as registered archaeologists working under state and federal permits, CPAA researchers have access to archaeological records and site-specific data not otherwise accessible to the public – information that is critical to defining the human and environmental landscapes at risk.



Through sound scientific research, CPAA examines resource degradation as it relates to road access, unrestricted public visitation, illegal collecting, ORV trails, seismic activities, the cumulative effects of oil and gas development, and other issues related to public access. CPAA will also assist public and private entities in the development and implementation of strategies to protect sites of local, regional and national significance, and provide technical assistance to those entities seeking the protection of cultural resources through legal designations. CPAA also works with private entities seeking to develop legal leases on public lands to ensure that their impacts on cultural treasures are avoided, minimized and mitigated.

CPAA also believes that public education on the importance and fragile nature of cultural resources is critical to the preservation of these sites for future generations. The organization is committed to the dissemination of information that informs the general public as to threats to cultural resources, educates them as to the significance of these resources and the ethics expected of all who visit these treasures, and assists in the training of professionals in archaeological preservation. This strategy utilizes a combination of internships, newsletters, monographs, peer-reviewed publications, Internet databases and other multi-media approaches.


CPAA and Section 106

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) is an important federal law that guarantees that private citizens and local governments have a voice in federal decisions impacting historic and prehistoric properties, including thousands of archaeological sites on public lands in the West. Section 106 of the act specifically recognizes the importance of public participation in the consultation process, and as noted by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, “the views of the public should be solicited and considered throughout the process.” As a consulting party in Section 106 compliance process, CPAA will:


Our Partners

CPAA assists non-profit organizations by conducting technical reviews of Section 106 compliance reports required for actions on federal lands, initiating formal and informal surveys on behalf of non-profit organizations seeking baseline data on the nature and importance of cultural resources, analyzing previous research to determine the scope and significance of cultural resources, and assisting in the development of scientifically based responses to proposed actions on public lands. CPAA also assists American Indians and tribal governments in the assessment of archaeological resources significant to native traditions, heritage and way of life; institutions of higher education with archaeological research projects that foster public appreciation for past peoples, places and events; government and private entities in the development and implementation of long-term strategies to protect sites of local, regional and national significance.


Public Outreach

CPAA works collaboratively with non-profit organizations, private corporations and governmental entities in the development and implementation of public campaigns directed toward the preservation of cultural resources. It also fosters public awareness of the importance of archaeological and historical resources through magazine and newspaper articles, opinion pieces, newsletters and other popular media. Archaeological treasures found on public lands belong to all, and protecting them for future generations must involve the proactive participation of all who enjoy those lands.


The Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance is a non-profit organization created under the laws of the state of Utah

(Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) charitable organization).

Top of Page

Web site by: Positively Media