Frequently Asked Steward Questions

The following are common questions asked by site stewards on a variety of topics. If you would like further information on these topics or have any questions, please contact the NSSP staff.

Please note: If you have questions about monitoring forms, photo logs, and ways to submit your reports, please see our Reports Page. If you have questions about what to bring while stewarding please see our Safety and Technology page.

Question Topics: 

Instructions: Click on the question to see the answer

Site Assignments

Key words: new site and scheduling

- Can I change sites if I do not like mine? How do I do that?

Yes, you can always change sites.  Just send the NSSP staff an email or call them and they can work with you to find something your will like.  NSSP would like you to enjoy being a steward and enjoy your site. Our sites are diverse, including some that are wheelchair accessible.

- Am I the only one stewarding my site?

Probably not. Stewards are only expected to visit their site four times a year and many sites need to be visited more often than that. So, there is often more than one group of stewards assigned to a site.

- If there are multiple sets of stewards on a site, why not schedule them so they don’t go out at the same time?

There is no stewarding schedule for three reasons: (1) With close to 400 site stewards, creating a monitoring schedule for them all is impossible and would not be a good use of staff time. (2) Since it is rare to have stewards monitor the same site on the same day, site visits tend to naturally be spread out and do not require a schedule. (3)NSSP staff want stewards to feel the freedom of monitoring when they choose and not lock them into a schedule that may not fit their lifestyle.



Key words: volunteer agreements and monitoring reports

- Why do I have to sign volunteer agreements every year?

Volunteer agreements are your official volunteer paperwork with the land manager you are working with. They provide workers compensation insurance to you, should you get hurt and they provide the agencies your updated contact information. They are only valid from October to the next September.

- Why do I have to sign so many volunteer agreements every time?

You will have multiple volunteer agreements if you monitor sites managed by different agencies or different districts/offices in the same agency.

- Why am I asked to submit a monitoring report every time I go out?

Your reports keep the land managers up-to-date on what is going on at the site and assist law enforcement, when a site is damaged, in determining what window of time the damage happened by seeing when the site was last in good condition. Also, each monitoring report you submit adds a page to the history of the site, the more reports we have the better we can study how the site changed over time. 


Site Visit Activities

Key words: trash collecting, rock cairns, graffiti, and suspicious people

- When can I pick-up trash while stewarding?

After you have confirmed that it is not a crime scene (Impact Level 3), you should pick-up trash when you leave your site. Unless your site is on National Park Service land, in which case please leave the trash, but include it in your report. 

- How can I tell historic trash from modern trash?

Historic trash has key indicators such as corrosion, discoloration, or how the object was constructed. Some common examples are iron corrosion on the cans, how cans are opened, opalescence on the bottles and glass color. To find out more about artifact identification check out the Archaeology resource page.

- What do I do if I find new rock cairn that is either directing visitors to my site or indicating the location of my site?

First note its presence and location in your monitoring report. Then, except for the National Park Service, all the other agencies would like for you to dismantle it when you leave.

- When I see graffiti at my site, can I clean it up?

Graffiti at your site can be considered a violation of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (16 U.S.Code 470aa-470mm) and, depending on the extent of the graffiti, could require a graffiti removal specialist. If you try to remove graffiti on your own, you could disturb and possibly contribute to the crime scene. That additional damage would make it possible for you to be prosecuted under ARPA and Nevada state law (NRS 206.330.9b).

- What if I run into suspicious people while stewarding?

If you are unable to avoid speaking to them, do not tell them you are a site steward or direct them to stop doing suspicious things. You can make up something, like you are bird watching, or just tell them you are out for a hike. Then leave the area and contact law enforcement.


Other Stewarding Questions

Key words: photo sharing, worker's compensation, family, and talking about stewardship

- Why can’t I share photos or videos of my site?

The Archaeological Resource Protection Act (16 U.S. Code 470aa-470mm) prohibits the sharing of site location information. Photos and videos of your site may show enough scenery for others to triangulate where the site is located and/or they may have GPS coordinates imbedded in them. Both of which give away the site location. Remember that the photos you take while stewarding belong to the federal or state agency who manages that site. You are prohibited from posting, selling, or giving away these photos to anyone other than the NSSP staff or the land manager (usually the agency archaeologist).

- If I get hurt and need worker's compensation, what do I do?

You need to contact your agency representative as soon as you go to the doctor or hospital, so they can get the time-sensitive workers compensation paperwork started. You can find the agency contact information in your Emergency Numbers Page. Also, remember to let the doctor’s office/hospital know the visit will be covered under worker’s compensation. Do not give them your insurance card. They should give you paperwork for the agency before beginning any sort of treatment.

- Why can’t I talk about my site with friends and family?

You can talk about your site with friends and family if they also are active site stewards monitoring the same site as you. Otherwise, the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (16 U.S. Code 470aa-470mm) prohibits you from talking about and taking people to your site without permission from the federal agency who manages the land your site is on.

- Can I bring my family to the site if it is a public site?

If you have a public site (one with an official sign) you may bring them, just don’t tell them it is the site you steward.

- Can I talk to people about being a site steward?

Yes, please tell people about the site stewardship program. You just cannot tell them where your site is.



Key words: site definitions and historic trash 

- What is an artifact?

An artifact is any object made, used, or modified by humans.

- What is an archaeological/historic site?

Sites are concentrations of artifacts or features that reflect activities conducted by prehistoric and/or historic people. The BLM in Nevada defines a site as being three or more artifacts and/or features within a 30 meter radius.

- What is the difference between prehistoric and historic sites?

The state of Nevada defines a “historic site” as: “ A site, landmark or monument of historical significance pertaining to the history of the settlement of Nevada, or Indian campgrounds, shelters, petroglyphs, pictographs and burials dating between the middle of the 18th century and 50 years ago.” NRS 381.195 The State of Nevada defines a “prehistoric site” as: “Any archeological or paleontological site, ruin, deposit, fossilized footprints and other impressions, petroglyphs and pictographs, habitation caves, rock shelters, natural caves, burial ground or sites of religious or cultural importance to an Indian tribe dating before the middle of the 18th century.” NRS 381.195

- Why is historic trash important?

Historic trash is import because it can tell us what settlers/miners/ranchers were eating and drinking, what products they were using, possibly how long they lived/worked in that location and/or how large a group of people were there.


Laws on Collecting

Key words: laws, artifacts and collection

- Is it legal to collect any artifacts from public lands?

No, it is not legal to collect artifacts from public lands. On federal lands, the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) protects all artifacts that are over a hundred years old. On both federal and state lands Nevada law protects all artifacts over fifty years old under NRS 381.195. Additionally, one can be charged with theft of federal property, damaging federal property, and/or collecting without a permit.

- Is it legal to collect artifacts from private property?

It is legal for someone to collect artifacts from private land with the owner’s permission unless those artifacts are related to a Native American burial. The federal and state Native American burial laws protect burials on private property and have very specific procedures for landowners who find them on their land. There is no collecting of burial goods on private land, except by the authorities. NRS 381.196, NRS 381.207, Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013