Utah is Considering a Bad Archaeology Bill

As is well known Utah is currently considering a bill promoting creationism. But they also have a bill affecting archaeology in the works. This is HB 139. I haven’t had a chance to digest the entire thing yet but it looks kind of goofy. An alert Reader sent me a link to this story on the bill.

Utah has some of the greatest archaeological sites in the US, if not the world, with everything from dinosaur bones to the settlements of the ancient Fremont and Anazazi tribes. But those sites are often fragile and are protected by both federal and state laws.
When a site is discovered, archaeologists play an important role in decisions about excavating, surveying and recording what’s there. Some of those finds sometimes conflict with resource extraction and development. Now, a new bill, House Bill 139, would change the equation handing the oversight of resources from archaeologists to the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office. The bill would also lower the standards for the professional archaeologist involved in the process.

Specifically, the provision affecting qualifications reads:

(4) (a) A project director conducting a survey or excavation shall have:
177 (i) except as provided in Subsection (4)(b), a graduate degree in anthropology,
178 archaeology, or history;
179 (ii) one year of full-time professional experience or equivalent specialized training in
180 archaeological research, administration, or management; and
181 (iii) one year of supervised field and analytical experience in Utah prehistoric or
182 historic archaeology.
183 (b) A project director may offer equivalent training and experience in lieu of a graduate
184 degree.
185 (c) A field supervisor conducting a survey or excavation shall have:
186 (i) a bachelor’s degree in anthropology or archaeology; and
187 (ii) one year of full-time supervised field and analytical experience in Utah prehistoric
188 or historic archaeology.

I think the emphasized portion is a bad idea. Current law requires:

Currently, field supervisors conducting fieldwork need a masters or Ph.D. The bill weakens that requirement and archaeologists say that’ll have the effect of weakening protection for archaeological sites

In other words the demonstrated ability to do independent fieldwork. After I’ve had a little more time to untangle the bill (it’s one of those that amends a lot of other bills so you have to track all those down to understand what changes are being made) I’ll post more…

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