Fort McCoy ArtiFACT: Collaborative stewardship
Seibert stakes and earthen berms are shown around an archaeological site on Sept. 1, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis. The stakes and berms are set up around 17 archaeological sites at Fort McCoy. (Contributed photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort McCoy includes approximately 60,000 acres within its boundary, and numerous and diverse natural and cultural resources can be found throughout the installation's lands.

And while the primary mission of the installation is to support training, personnel, and equipment readiness, Fort McCoy also has an important role as a steward for the public to these lands and the precious natural and cultural resources within. Fort McCoy has long been a leader in thoughtful resource management.

It has now been 50 years since the one millionth tree was planted at Fort McCoy to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Army Forestry Program, and those 50 years have seen many awards and accolades come to the hard working men and women of the Natural Resources Branch and the Environmental Division of the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works.

Stewardship and effective resource management requires careful planning and thoughtful execution, and few are better suited to assist in these measures than the Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) staff with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).

The Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) and ITAM staff with DPTMS have been collaborating with Natural Resources Branch staff for years to ensure good stewardship of precious natural and cultural resources, but also recent efforts to ensure the protection of irreplaceable cultural resources are demonstrating how collaboration breeds excellence.

Over the past three years, LRAM personnel and the rest of ITAM employees have incorporated cultural resources management in planning their projects at a level that was unprecedented at Fort McCoy previously. They're working to address potential concerns and conflicts in the earliest stages of project development — a critical step that helps avoid delays later on down the line.

They have also made significant investments to protect cultural resources at Fort McCoy through funding, manpower, materials, and equipment. (Note: The related picture accompanying this article is a demonstration of two aspects of these investments — Seibert stakes and earthen berms.)

LRAM staff have placed hundreds of Seibert stakes around 17 archaeological sites at Fort McCoy which have two things in common — historic or prehistoric significance and data recovery potential to merit inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and, a history of inadvertent training impacts.

Seibert stakes are in common use at installations across the country and the globe, and alert military personnel quickly and easily in all field conditions to areas which are out of bounds for training activities and impacts.

Fort McCoy LRAM staff have gone a step further and created earthen berms around the outside edge of the existing site boundary of several sites to prevent vehicle traffic without restricting foot traffic. These berms resolutely reinforce the “out-of-bounds” message of the Seibert stakes placed at those sites.

Fort McCoy cultural resources management staff have long tried to protect the archaeological sites without resorting to placing signage around archaeological sites. While such signs can be informative and help conscientious visitors avoid damaging irreplaceable historic and prehistoric resources, an alternative interpretation is that they serve as a bright red X on a treasure map for looters who would seek to profit off of the heritage which should benefit all of the public.

Seibert stakes, however, do not make any mention of what resource they are placed to protect, they simply mark areas which ought to be avoided. LRAM staff have also made avoiding archaeological sites a priority in other ways, including the creation of new maneuver corridors to bypass archaeological sites which have had existing maneuver trails running adjacent to or through them for decades.

Continuing these efforts in the future will eventually lead to a level of stewardship for the cultural resources of Fort McCoy that is unsurpassed across the armed forces.

All archaeological work conducted at Fort McCoy was sponsored by the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch. Visitors and employees are reminded they should not collect artifacts on Fort McCoy or other government lands and leave the digging to the professionals.

Any individual who excavates, removes, damages, or otherwise alters or defaces any historic or prehistoric site, artifact, or object of antiquity on Fort McCoy is in violation of federal law.

The discovery of any archaeological artifact should be reported to the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.

(Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Archaeology Team.)