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Preservation of Wisconsin Archaeological Sites

It is estimated that nearly 80% of the archaeological sites that once existed in the state have been destroyed or severely damaged, primarily by modern land practices such as development and farming. Many sites have also been damaged by looting.

Laws and Statutes

Federal Projects
Section 106 of the National Historical Preservation Act of 1966, As Amended requires federal agencies to insure that their actions (grants, funding, permits, activities such as highway building, etc.) do not adversely affect archaeological sites in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. For more information on the protection of archaeological sites during federal projects contact Compliance Archaeologist Sherman Banker.

State Projects
Archaeological sites can be protected during the course of state agency activities (grants, funding, permits, ground disturbing projects) if the sites have been recorded with the Office of the State Archaeologist. See Section 44.40 Wisconsin Statutes. For more information contact Compliance Coordinator Chip Brown.

Political Subdivision Projects
Archaeological site may be protected during the course of village, city, county and other political subdivision projects (e.g. building, road construction, etc.) but only if the site is listed on the National/State Register of Historic Places. See Section 44.43 Wisconsin Statutes. For more information contact Compliance Coordinator Chip Brown.

Burial Sites
All human burial sites, including cemeteries and Indian mounds, are protected under state law Section 157.70 (Wisconsin Statutes). The law applies to both public and private lands. Owners of burial sites may receive property tax exemptions. The law is administered by the WHS Burial Sites Program.

Rock Art Sites
Destruction and vandalism of ancient rock art sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places without landowner permission is a felony under Section 943.01 Wisconsin Statutes.

Public Lands
Federal Lands: It is illegal to remove artifacts or otherwise disturb

archaeological sites on federal lands without a permit under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979. Federal lands in Wisconsin include National Forests, National Parks, and federal trust lands such as Indian Reservations.

State Lands: It is illegal to remove artifacts or otherwise disturb archaeological sites on state or or political subdivision (village, city, county) lands without a permit under The Field Archaeology Act Section 44.47 Wisconsin Statutes. The law applies to both archaeological sites on public lands and submerged sites such as shipwrecks on publicly-owned bottomlands under lakes and rivers. Permits to work on public land are administered by the Office of the State Archaeologist. Contact John Broihahn.

Tax Incentives

As an incentive for private landowners to protect archaeological sites on their lands, the state offers a property tax exemption if the landowner formally agrees to protect the site. See Property Tax Exemptions for Archaeological Sites.

Local Preservation Efforts

Significant Archaeological sites in your community may be protected by special community landmarks ordinance. Contact your local landmarks commission. 

Native American Tribal Preservation Programs

The eleven Wisconsin Indian tribes are very active in the preservation of archaeological sites and sacred areas. Most have historic preservation programs or contacts.

Archaeological Consultants

The Office of the State Archaeologist and the Burial Sites Preservation Office maintains a list of consultants qualified to conduct archaeological studies to identify and evaluate sites under various federal and state historic preservation laws.

These lists are provided in Adobe Acrobat Format.
To obtain the free Acrobat reader click here.


 

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