Stewardship Related Laws and Policies
Table of Contents:
- Federal and State Agency Collection Policies
- Federal Cultural Resource Laws
- State Cultural Resource Laws
- Frequently Asked Law Related Questions on FAQ page
Federal and State Agency Collection Policies (When you are not stewarding)
It is illegal to collect archaeological and historic resources on all public lands without an official research permit. The following regulations are for the collection of minerals and fossils:
- Bureau of Land Management - Limited collection of rocks and fossils.
- National Park Service – No collection of rocks or fossils. See restrictions on National Park Service lands.
- Nevada State Parks - No collection of fossils or minerals without an official research permit.
- US Fish and Wildlife Service – No rocks, fossils or plant materials may be collected within the boundaries of any Fish and Wildlife lands without an official research permit.
- US Forest Service – Limited collection of rocks and fossils. See what requires permission before collecting from the forest.
Please note: No artifacts, fossils or plant materials may be collected within the boundaries of a Wilderness Area or a National Conservation Area. In addition, on wilderness land, no mechanized vehicle may enter this type of land except wheelchairs.
Federal Cultural Preservation Laws
Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 U.S.C. §§ 431-433 (1906)
This law protects archaeological resources on land owned or managed by the federal government
This law establishes:
- Criminal penalties for destruction of any historic or prehistoric ruin, monument, or object of antiquity.
- Permitting procedures for excavation of and collecting from archaeological sites on Federal land.
- The president’s ability to nominate historic and scientific national monuments.
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, 54 U.S.C. § 300101 et seq. (as amended)
This law set the national policy on historic preservation by encouraging the preservation at the state and local levels.
Some key elements from the Act:
- Establishes a federal-state and federal-tribal partnership.
- Establishes the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Programs.
- Creates the State Historic Preservation Office.
- Mandates the selection of qualified State Historic Preservation Officers.
- Establishes the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
- Charges Federal Agencies with responsible stewardship.
- Establishes the role of Certified Local Governments within the States.
Archaeological Resource Protection Act 1979, 16 U.S.C. §§ 470aa-470mm (1979)
Governs excavation of archaeological sites on federal and Indian lands. The law also covers the removal and disposition of archaeological collections from those sites.
Some key elements from the act:
- Archaeological/cultural resources are any material remains of past human life or activities that are at least 100 years old and of archaeological interest.
- Artifacts and fossils found on federal land belong to the federal government.
- Federal permits are required for excavation and/or removal of archaeological and paleontological resources from federal lands.
- Site locations are confidential.
- It is a felony violation to disturb a cultural site without an official research permit.
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, 25 U.S.C. §§ 3001-3013 (1990)
This law requires federal agencies and institutions with federal funding work with Native American tribes to determine the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, and sacred objects. It accomplishes this through:
- The inventory, return, or repatriation of Native American human remains and funerary objects to their descendants
- The development of procedures for the inadvertent discovery or planned excavation of Native American cultural items on federal or tribal lands
- Criminal penalties for the trafficking of Native American human remains and cultural items obtained in violation of this law
This law does not apply to discovery or excavation on private or state lands (other laws do that).
State Cultural Preservation Laws
Preservation and Protection of Historic Sites NRS 381.195 -.227
Protects historical, archaeological and paleontological resources on federal and state lands.
Key elements include:
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Requires a permit to investigate, explore, or excavate historic or prehistoric sites.
- Outlines the permitting process for archaeological research on state land.
- Establishes by Nevada State Museum Carson City as the state agency to issue state official research permits.
- Allows law enforcement to seize artifacts that were collected without a permit.
Describes acts of vandalism as writing on, painting, or carving initials or words or in any other way defacing historic or prehistoric sites, monuments, objects, Indian paintings, or historic buildings.
Protection of Indian Burial Sites NRS 383.180 (1989)
Protects Native American graves on all public and private land in Nevada.
It is a gross misdemeanor to:
- Willfully remove, mutilate, deface, injure or destroy the cairn or grave of a native Indian
It is a category D felony to:
- Possess any artifact or human remains taken from the cairn or grave of a native Indian on or after October 1, 1989
- Publicly display or exhibit the human remains of a native Indian, except during a tribal funeral ceremony
- Sell any artifact or human remains taken from the cairn or grave of a native Indian
Protection of Historic and Prehistoric Sites 383.435
Applies to state and local agency land and protects cultural resources from anyone without a permit who:
- Knowingly and willfully removes, mutilates, defaces, excavates, injures, or destroys a historic or prehistoric site or resource.
- Receives, traffics in, or sells cultural property appropriated without a valid permit.
Graffiti and Defacement of Property: NRS 206.330.9b
It is illegal to deface any of the following protected sites:
- Any site, landmark, monument, building or structure of historical significance pertaining to the history of the settlement of Nevada.
- Any site, building, structure, object or district listed in the register of historic resources of a community which is recognized as a Certified Local Government (CLG).
- Any site, building, structure, object or district listed in the State Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places.
- Any site, building, structure, object or district that is more than 50 years old and is located in a municipal or state park.
- Any Indian campgrounds, shelters, petroglyphs, pictographs or burials.
- Any archeological or paleontological site, ruin, deposit, fossilized footprints and other impressions
The penalty is a catgory D fellony (NRS 206.330.1.d) which includes (NRS 193.130):
- Imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 4 years
- The court may impose a fine of not more than $5,000, unless a greater fine is authorized or required by statute
- If the court grants probation to such a person, the court shall require as a condition of probation that the person serve at least 10 days in the county jail