Quietly waiting for you in our national forests and grasslands are what remains of long past civilizations and cultures. Some of these sites still have direct spiritual or cultural meaning to folks today while others are a complete mystery of what once was of a vanished people. Yet, in both cases, the adventurer is reminded of the centuries-old relationship between people and the land.
It’s this relationship between land and people that gives the U.S. Forest Service such pride in knowing that we protect these irreplaceable symbols that ancient peoples left to us. These near mystical treasures can be found from the Olympic National Forest in Washington State to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands of North Dakota to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest of Virginia.
Some of the most famous sites include the Silver Creek Archeological Project in Arizona, Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado, and more contemporarily, Grey Towers, Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot’s ancestral home in Milford, Pennsylvania.
In fact, the Forest Service is responsible for the management of more than 350,000 recorded cultural resources. Our responsibility includes developing sites for public use, enjoyment and education as well as protecting sites from vandalism, theft and effects of federally authorized activities such as timber harvest and road development.
When visiting a cultural site, treat remains of past cultures with respect by leaving artifacts where you find them and never touching fragile surfaces. Take lots of pictures but, remember, the past belongs to all Americans and when thieves and vandals, or someone just being careless, destroys archaeological and historic sites, part of America’s heritage is forever lost.
And you can do your part to help protect and preserve our national heritage sites with a more hands-on approach. One way is to sign up as volunteer in the Passport in Time program that invites the public to share in the thrill of discovery through archaeological and historic research. Also, Heritage Expeditions are educational tours and programs about historic and prehistoric sites on national forests.
Both programs instruct participants on how to protect significant heritage resources, to share their values with the American people, and to contribute relevant information and perspectives to natural resource managers.
On your next outdoors adventure, for a memorable and literal walk through history, why not add cultural awareness to the beauty all around you and experience the links to living traditions by visiting a cultural site protected by the Forest Service.