A Guide to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) is a critical federal law that safeguards irreplaceable archaeological resources on public and Indian lands, preserving the nation's cultural heritage for future generations. This comprehensive guide delves into the key aspects of ARPA, exploring its regulatory scope, compliance requirements, and enforcement mechanisms. Readers will gain a deep understanding of the Act's permit system for archaeological investigations, prohibited activities, and the severe penalties for violations. The guide also highlights the complex interplay between ARPA and other federal, state, and local regulations, emphasizing the importance of effective coordination among various agencies and stakeholders. By providing insights into compliance strategies, best practices, and potential challenges, this resource aims to equip readers with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the intricacies of ARPA and ensure the responsible management of archaeological resources in the context of large-scale development projects.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Key Details of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act

Issuing Agency: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal land management agencies1

Year Established: 19792

Last Amended: 19883

Statutory Authority: Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 19794

Primary Legal Reference: Title 16, Chapter 1B, Sections 470aa-470mm of the United States Code5

What is the Archaeological Resources Protection Act?

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) is a federal law that aims to protect archaeological resources on public and Indian lands in the United States. It operates within the broader framework of historic preservation and cultural resource management laws, such as the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

ARPA was enacted in 1979 to address the growing problem of looting and vandalism of archaeological sites on federal and Indian lands. The act establishes a permitting system for the excavation and removal of archaeological resources, imposes criminal and civil penalties for unauthorized removal or damage, and prohibits the sale, purchase, exchange, transport, or receipt of illegally obtained archaeological… The U.S. Department of the Interior, through its various agencies such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Affairs, is primarily responsible for administering and enforcing ARPA. Other federal land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also play a role in implementing the act on lands under their jurisdiction.

ARPA applies to all archaeological resources on federal and Indian lands, regardless of their cultural affiliation or age. The act defines archaeological resources as any material remains of past human life or activities that are of archaeological interest and are at least 100 years old. This includes artifacts, structures, human remains, and other physical evidence of past human activities.

What does the Archaeological Resources Protection Act protect?

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act protects archaeological resources on public and Indian lands in the United States. Archaeological resources are defined as any material remains of past human life or activities that are of archaeological interest and are at least 100 years old6. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Artifacts: Portable objects such as tools, weapons, pottery, and clothing
  • Structures: Buildings, shelters, and other non-portable features
  • Human remains: Skeletal remains and associated funerary objects
  • Other physical evidence: Traces of past human activities, such as fire pits, middens, and rock art

ARPA protects these resources from unauthorized excavation, removal, damage, alteration, or defacement by establishing a permitting system for archaeological investigations on federal and Indian lands. It also prohibits the sale, purchase, exchange, transport, or receipt of archaeological resources obtained in violation of the act or any other federal law. By regulating access to and use of archaeological resources, ARPA aims to preserve these irreplaceable cultural heritage materials for present and future generations7.

REGULATORY SCOPE & JURISDICTION

Section 4 - Permit Requirements

Section 4 of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) establishes the permit requirements for the excavation and removal of archaeological resources on public and Indian lands. The main purpose of this section is to ensure that archaeological resources are properly protected and that any excavation or removal activities are conducted in a professional and responsible manner.

Key requirements of Section 4 include:

  • Permits are required for any excavation or removal of archaeological resources on public or Indian lands.
  • Permits may only be issued to qualified individuals or institutions who demonstrate the necessary expertise and commitment to properly excavate, remove, and curate archaeological resources.
  • Permit applications must include detailed information about the proposed activity, including the location, duration, and methods of excavation or removal.
  • Permits are subject to specific terms and conditions, including reporting requirements and restrictions on the use and disposition of archaeological resources.

For developers, environmental consultants, and other stakeholders involved in large-scale greenfield development projects, Section 4 is significant because it establishes the legal framework for obtaining permission to excavate or remove archaeological resources on public or Indian lands. Compliance with this section is essential to avoid legal and regulatory challenges that could delay or derail a project.

Compliance strategies and best practices associated with Section 4 include:

  • Engaging qualified archaeologists and cultural resource specialists early in the project planning process to identify potential archaeological resources and develop appropriate mitigation strategies.
  • Conducting thorough background research and field surveys to identify and document archaeological resources prior to applying for a permit.
  • Developing a comprehensive permit application that demonstrates a commitment to responsible excavation, removal, and curation of archaeological resources.
  • Establishing clear communication channels and coordination protocols with the relevant federal agencies and tribal representatives to ensure smooth permit processing and compliance monitoring.

Potential challenges associated with Section 4 compliance may include:

  • Navigating the complex permit application process and ensuring that all required information and documentation is provided.
  • Addressing concerns or objections raised by tribal representatives or other stakeholders regarding the proposed excavation or removal activities.
  • Ensuring that all permit terms and conditions are strictly adhered to throughout the project lifecycle, including reporting requirements and restrictions on the use and disposition of archaeological resources.

Section: Regulated Activities, Entities & Prohibited Substances

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) regulates activities and entities involved in the excavation, removal, damage, alteration, or defacement of archaeological resources on public and Indian lands in the United States. The Act applies to a wide range of entities, including:

  • Federal, state, and local government agencies
  • Private individuals and organizations
  • Educational institutions and museums
  • Commercial enterprises, such as mining, logging, and construction companies

Specific activities regulated under ARPA include:

  • Archaeological excavations and surveys
  • Collection of archaeological resources
  • Damage or destruction of archaeological sites and artifacts
  • Sale, purchase, exchange, transport, or receipt of archaeological resources obtained in violation of the Ant

ARPA prohibits the following activities without a valid permit:

  1. Excavation, removal, damage, alteration, or defacement of archaeological resources on public or Indian lands.

    • This prohibition ensures that archaeological resources are protected from unauthorized disturbance and destruction.
  2. Sale, purchase, exchange, transport, receipt, or offering of archaeological resources obtained in violation of the Ant or any other federal law.

    • This prohibition aims to discourage the illegal trade in archaeological resources and to prevent the commercialization of artifacts obtained through unauthorized means.
  3. Trafficking in interstate or foreign commerce of archaeological resources excavated, removed, sold, purchased, excha

COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS & STANDARDS

Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and its implementing regulations establish various standards and limitations to protect archaeological resources on public and Indian lands. These standards include:

  1. Permit requirements: Any excavation or removal of archaeological resources from public or Indian lands requires a permit from the federal land manager.[^200]
  2. Prohibited acts: ARPA prohibits the unauthorized excavation, removal, damage, alteration, or defacement of archaeological resources on public or Indian lands.[^201]
  3. Trafficking restrictions: It is illegal to sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange any archaeological resource excavated or removed from public or Indian lands in violation of ARPA or any other federal law.[^202]
  4. Native American cultural items: ARPA's provisions do not apply to Native American cultural items covered under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).[^203]

These standards are implemented and enforced through:

  • Permit system: Federal land managers review and approve permit applications for archaeological investigations on public or Indian lands.[^204]
  • Monitoring and inspection: Federal agencies monitor compliance with ARPA through site inspections and other means.[^205]
  • Penalties: Violations of ARPA can result in civil and criminal penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of vehicles and equipment used in the violation.[^206]

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under ARPA, regulated entities have several monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping obligations:

  1. Permit reporting: Permit holders must submit a final report describing the work performed, the results, and the disposition of any collected materials.[^207]
  2. Recordkeeping: Permit holders must maintain records of all activities conducted under the permit, including field notes, maps, photographs, and other documentation.[^208]
  3. Curation: Archaeological resources collected under an ARPA permit must be preserved and curated in a suitable repository, along with associated records and documentation.[^209]

These obligations are essential for ensuring compliance with ARPA and promoting transparency in the management of archaeological resources on public and Indian lands. They also facilitate research, education, and public interpretation of these resources.

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

Enforcement of ARPA is carried out through inspections, audits, and investigations by federal land management agencies and law enforcement authorities. Inspections may be conducted on a routine basis, targeted based on specific concerns, or in response to complaints or reported violations.[^210]

During inspections, regulated entities are required to provide access to sites, records, and other relevant information. They also have the right to be present during the inspection and to receive a copy of the inspection report.[^211]

Violations of ARPA can result in a range of penalties, depending on the nature and severity of the offense:

Violation TypePotential Penalties
Civil violations- Fines up to $1,000 per violation[^212]
Criminal violations (misdemeanor)- Fines up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to 1 year for first offenses[^213]- Fines up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment up to 2 years for subsequent offenses[^213]
Criminal violations (felony)- Fines up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years for first offenses[^214]- Fines up to $500,000 and/or imprisonment up to 10 years for subsequent offenses[^214]

Factors that influence the severity of penalties include the commercial value and archaeological significance of the resources involved, the extent of the damage or loss, the defendant's criminal history, and the defendant's cooperation with authorities.[^215]

Compliance Assistance & Regulatory Incentives

Several programs and resources are available to help entities understand and comply with ARPA:

  1. Technical assistance: The National Park Service (NPS) offers guidance documents, such as the "Archaeological Resources Protection Act: A Brief Overview" and "ARPA Enforcement Reference Manual," to help entities interpret and meet ARPA requirements.[^216]
  2. Training and workshops: The NPS and other federal agencies offer training sessions and workshops on ARPA compliance, investigation, and enforcement for federal employees, law enforcement personnel, and other stakeholders.[^217]
  3. Tribal historic preservation programs: Federally recognized tribes may assume certain ARPA responsibilities on tribal lands through the Tribal Historic Preservation Program, which provides grants and technical assistance to participating tribes.
  4. Partnership programs: The National Park Service administers the National Park Service Archaeological Assistance Program, which provides technical assistance, training, and other resources to support archaeological site protection and ARPA compliance on public and Indian lands.[^219]

Entities seeking to participate in these programs or access these resources should contact the relevant federal agencies or visit their websites for more information on eligibility criteria and application processes.

[^200]: 16 U.S.C. § 470cc(a) [^201]: 16 U.S.C. § 470ee(a) [^202]: 16 U.S.C. § 470ee(b) [^203]: 16 U.S.C. § 470kk(c) [^204]: 43 C.F.R. § 7.5-7.12 [^205]: 16 U.S.C. § 470mm [^206]: 16 U.S.C. § 470ee(d) [^207]: 43 C.F.R. § 7.11(a) [^208]: 43 C.F.R. § 7.11(b) [^209]: 43 C.F.R. § 7.13 [^210]: 16 U.S.C. § 470mm [^211]: 43 C.F.R. § 7.15 [^212]: 16 U.S.C. § 470ff(a)(1) [^213]: 16 U.S.C. § profitable_240ee(d) [^214]: 16 U.S.C. § 470ee(d) [^215]: 16 U.S.C. § 470ff(a)(2) [^216]: National Park Service, "Archeology Program: Technical Assistance," , https://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/technical.htm [^217]: National Park Service, "Archeology Program: Training," https://www.nps.gov/archeology/training/index.htm [^219]: National Park Service, "Archeology Program: National Park Service Archaeological Assistance Program," https://www.nps.gov/archeology/sites/fedArch/npsProgram.htm

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Regulatory History & Upcoming Changes

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) was enacted in 1979 to protect archaeological resources on public and Indian lands in the United States.8 The Act was a response to the growing problem of looting and destruction of archaeological sites, which was seen as a threat to the nation's cultural heritage.9

Prior to the passage of ARPA, the Antiquities Act of 1906 was the primary federal law protecting archaeological resources on federal lands.10 However, the Antiquities Act had several limitations, including weak penalties for violations and a lack of clear definitions for key terms such as "archaeological resource."11

ARPA addressed these limitations by providing stronger penalties for violations, including fines and imprisonment, and by defining "archaeological resource" as any material remains of past human life or activities that are at least 100 years old and of archaeological interest.12

In 1988, ARPA was amended to strengthen its enforcement provisions and to clarify the definition of "archaeological resource."13 The amendments also authorized the use of rewards for information leading to the recovery of stolen archaeological resources or the conviction of violators.14

As of 2023, there are no major proposed rules, regulatory changes, or pending legislation related to ARPA. However, it is important for regulated entities to stay informed about any potential changes to the Act or its implementing regulations by regularly checking the Federal Register and the websites of relevant agencies, such as the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Additional Resources

  1. Full text of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, as amended: https://www.nps.gov/history/local-law/fhpl_archrsrcsprot.pdf 15

    • This document provides the complete text of ARPA, including all amendments, and is essential for understanding the specific provisions of the Act.
  2. National Park Service ARPA webpage: https://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/arpa.htm 16

REFERENCES

  1. 16 U.S.C. § 470bb(2)

  2. Pub. L. 96-95, Oct. 31, 1979, 93 Stat. 721

  3. Pub. L. 100-588, Nov. 3, 1988, 102 Stat. 2983

  4. 16 U.S.C. § 470aa

  5. 16 U.S.C. § 470aa-470mm

  6. 16 U.S. C. § 470bb(1)

  7. 16 U.S. C. § 470ee

  8. Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, 16 U.S.C. §§ 470aa-470mm (2023). https://www.nps.gov/history/local-law/fhpl_archrsrcsprot.pdf

  9. Ibid.

  10. American Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 U.S.C. §§ 431-433 (repealed 2014)

  11. Hanson, J. B., & Anderson, D. G. (2010). The Archaeological Resources Protection Act at Thirty: Successes, Shortcomings, and Challenges. The SAA Archaeological Record, 10(4), 24-29

  12. Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, 16 U.S.C. § 470bb(1) (2023). https://www.nps.gov/history/local-law/fhpl_archrsrcsprot.pdf

  13. Archaeological Resources Protection Act Amendments of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-588, 102 Stat. 2983 (1988)

  14. Ibid.

  15. Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, 16 U.S.C. §§ 470aa-470mm (2023). https://www.nps.gov/history/local-law/fhpl_archrsrcsprot.pdf

  16. National Park Service. (n.d.). Archaeological Resources Protection Act

Keep up with the latest

A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the ARPA. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.