By Rita Hess, USAEC ContractorMarch 30, 2018
When it came to managing cultural resources, Fort Huachuca's Cultural Resources Management Program (CRMP) team in southeast Arizona overcame several challenges including unevaluated sites and poor survey visibility by capitalizing on the fort's annual prescribed fire plan. These lessons learned proved highly successful and may assist other CRMP teams in managing cultural resources.
Fort Huachuca, Cochise County's largest employer, is an active U.S. Army installation located in Sierra Vista. The fort provides critical resources, infrastructure and services to more than 50 unique tenant units and missions with national-level requirements, including three of the fastest-growing missions in the Army and Department of Defense: military intelligence, cybersecurity and unmanned aircraft systems.
The main and auxiliary installation properties cover more than 100,000 acres, and the fort manages 964 square miles of restricted air space and 2,500 square miles of electronic ranges outside installation boundaries.
The CRMP team consists of an Army civilian--the Cultural Resources Manager (an archaeologist); one in-house contract archaeologist; two archaeological interns (one full-time and one part-time); and two additional interns who work during school breaks throughout the year.
Fort Huachuca's CRMP manages 479 archaeological sites, including three listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and five sacred sites; 185 historic buildings, including a National Historic Landmark district and the Mountain View Officers' Club, a WWII segregated black officers' club, listed on the NRHP; and collections housed at Arizona State Museum in Tucson. The Cultural Resources Manager maintains a good working relationship with 11 Native American tribes, and the team consults regularly with the tribes and hosts biennial tribal meetings.
Challenges facing the Fort Huachuca CRMP included unevaluated sites, inaccurate locations recorded prior to global positioning system use, and poor survey visibility due to dense grass cover. Capitalizing on the fort's annual prescribed burn plan addressed some of these issues.
"The Fort Huachuca forester conducts prescribed burns annually," said Martyn Tagg, Cultural Resources Manager, from Fort Huachuca, "and CRMP personnel now take advantage of fires to relocate, rerecord and determine eligibility on previously recorded sites in the burn area; in some cases, the CRMP determines the original survey no longer meets current Arizona inventory standards and conducts surveys."
The success of CRMP taking advantage of prescribed burns was immediately obvious. In 2012 a contractor attempted relocation of previously recorded and unevaluated sites in unburned areas with only a 20 percent success rate. The CRMP has now relocated 38 of 42 attempted sites in burned areas with a 90 percent success rate, and the GIS cultural resources layer was updated with accurate locations--opening up more acreage to military training. Since beginning burn revisits, the CRMP team has relocated approximately 25 percent of previously recorded sites.
Burns that remove thick grass cover also make surveys more productive. At most sites rerecorded after burns, more features and artifacts are recorded than during the original recording. Conversely, a 1,000-acre survey completed recently revealed only one documented site; thus, almost the entire parcel can now be used without cultural resources restrictions.
In addition to capitalizing on the benefits of prescribed burns, the CRMP team pays close attention to historic buildings on the installation.
During porch replacement projects on three barracks (ca. 1914-1916) that housed 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, previously replaced iron hand rails negatively impacted the buildings' historic integrity. In Fiscal Year 2017, the Cultural Resources Manager hired a metalworker to manufacture historically appropriate fittings. In another project, a local mason restored Works Progress Administration (WPA) stone walls that were nearly indistinguishable from the originals of the 1930s.
The historic WWII Mountain View Officers' Club, which became vacant in the 1990s, was scheduled to be demolished. However, due to the interest of outside organizations wanting to preserve the club, the CRMP began the Section 106 Consultation process to work with regulators and the public to identify a potential use for the building. Once slated for demolition, the club now has the potential to become an example of a successful private industry/Army partnership for other military installations to emulate.
In addition to hands-on projects and initiatives, the Fort Huachuca CRMP understands the value of educating the community about its mission
To expand outreach, the CRMP created and distributed cultural resources educational material (e.g., brochures, bookmarks, dog tags) to military and civilian personnel at schools, festivals and celebrations. Such events increase the public's awareness of cultural resources, including the public's responsibility for protecting them.
"The history of our people is written on the land. When you pick up an artifact, you wipe out a chapter of that history," said a tribal member during a Fort Huachuca consultation meeting.
The Fort Huachuca CRMP efforts continue to improve mission support and preserve the area's cultural identity.