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Cultural Resources

Cultural resources are the collective evidence of the past activities and accomplishments of people. These include prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, structures with scientific, historic, and cultural value, bridges, cemeteries, and monuments, buildings, objects, features, and locations. Cultural resources are finite and non-renewable resources that once destroyed cannot be returned to their original state. Impacts to resources eligible for the National Register of Historic Places must be mitigated through excavation, avoidance, or preservation. All Federal and most State agencies are required to identify and protect cultural resources on the lands they manage. Industries whose projects are licensed by federal and/or state agencies, must identify and mitigate impacts to cultural resources in project areas prior to construction activities.

Cultural resources are identified in many different ways depending upon the nature of the project, state and federal laws, and the resources being located. Most archaeological cultural resources are identified through a combination of walkover surveys, excavations, and/or historic documents. Ground penetrating radar and aerial surveys can also be used in some settings to locate archaeological sites. Small shovel test pits, large excavation units, and trenches are used to define the horizontal and vertical boundaries of archaeological resources, locate foundations and larger structural elements, and look for deeply stratified sites.

Cultural resource management (CRM) refers to the processes and procedures used to manage, preserve, protect, and conserve cultural resources in compliance with state and federal regulations. Each year a wealth of archaeological data are generated through CRM in efforts to prevent the loss of information from an untold number of archaeological sites, architecture, landscapes, and other cultural resources. A number of state and federal laws mandate CRM projects. These laws require identification and recording of cultural resources that are potentially eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, before impact by construction projects funded or licensed by federal and/or state agencies.

There are many and varied laws at both state and federal levels that address historic preservation and cultural resources under various circumstances. The following are merely the most broadly or commonly applicable:

U.S. Federal Laws

New York State Laws

For more information pertaining to cultural resources visit the following websites:

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
New York State Museum
Architectural History Survey
History of the Cultural Resources Survey Program