National Conservation Lands Face Threat from Vandals and Looters


Photo: Bureau of Land Management under Wikimedia Commons

Southwest Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients is home to the greatest known concentration of archaeological sites in the United States. However, though it is protected as part of the National Conservation Lands, this ancient home of the Anasazi people is in trouble, and it's not alone. Overseen by the Conservation Lands Foundation, the National Conservation Lands comprise 28 million acres of public lands in the western United States that have been set aside because of their cultural, ecological and scientific importance. Yet, the CLF says, the many of the lands under its purview suffer from looting, vandalism, and lack of recognition. The Canyons of the Ancients are home to an amazing 6,400 archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings, villages, kivas and rock art. Yet, the area and others like it, including Nevada's Sloan Valley (called the Sistine Chapel of Native American rock art), are plagued by looting, as valuable artifacts are stolen, and vandalism- rock art has been used for shooting practice!

To fight back, the Conservation Lands Federation has declared a "Season of Service," sending out volunteers this summer and fall to help restore the lands to their original states, as well as removing invasive species, completing trail maintenance, stewardship projects, youth education, and restoration of native habitats and removing un-needed fences for wildlife migration. But, the organization says, the greater problem plaguing the National Conservation Lands is a lack of funding, recognition, and support. As the CLF celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year, it is calling on supporters to donate to their cause, and help keep these national wonders in pristine condition, so they can be enjoyed by future generations.

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