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GBI Cultural Resources Program Partners with Eldorado National Forest

GBI Cultural Resources Program Partners with Eldorado National Forest

In 2022, GBI entered into a partnership with the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) to treat approximately 100 miles of system road and remove over 600,000 tons of fuel in areas of Eldorado National Forest (ENF) affected by the 2021 Caldor and Mosquito fire, thereby preparing the area for planting. This is a wide-ranging agreement, encompassing National Environmental Policy Act documentation, hazard fuels reduction, fuel break creation, and plant surveys. There’s also an important archaeological component to the agreement, one which involves Colfax-Todd’s Valley Consolidated Tribe. GBI’s Cultural Resources program will be working on land that is important to the tribe and has consequently agreed to bring in two tribal members to serve on a GBI crew. USFS’s Chuck Hutcheson, who serves as Eldorado’s Heritage Program Manager and Tribal Relations Program Manager, generously took the time to provide us with the following details about the project.

In 2021 and 2022 the Eldorado National Forest had been rocked by two back-to-back years of largescale wildfires. The Caldor and Mosquito Fires left the forest with a ton of National Historic Preservation Act work, to include surveys, report writing, and archaeological site protection measures to be conducted before and during implementation efforts. Unfortunately, for the past few years, the ENF has been functioning with about half of our permanent staffing capacity, and maybe a quarter of our seasonal staffing capacity. The workload ahead of the ENF Archaeological Staff after the Caldor Fire was daunting, and with the following Mosquito Fire things became dire. Additionally, other large-scale projects loomed, to include a forest wide roadside hazard tree project and numerous smaller scale projects. Fortunately, the ENF has a partnership with the Great Basin Institute.

The ENF has worked with GBI on other projects, but the field season of 2023 was the first time that GBI archaeologists were integrated in an “in house” sense. Working alongside ENF Archaeologists, GBI staff successfully filled Forest Service roles to include archaeological technician, archaeological crew lead, and in one case District Archaeologist. GBI archaeologists helped the ENF survey approximately one thousand acres; update and record hundreds of archaeological site records; and complete numerous cultural survey reports. Additionally, GBI archaeologists have helped flag well over one hundred archaeological sites prior to implementations and have monitored sensitive sites during implementation. All four districts on the Eldorado National Forest have benefited from the relationship with GBI. Honestly, as a Program Manager, having help from GBI has been wonderful.

Moving forward GBI has agreed to bring on members of the Colfax-Todd’s Valley Consolidated Tribe to help conduct cultural surveys within the Mosquito Fire burn scar. The fire did affect one of the Tribe’s Traditional Cultural Properties. This area is important to the Tribe as it helps connect them to their traditional cultural values through deer hunting, traditional plant gathering, and other traditional lifeways. The Forest and the Tribe have worked closely together on this piece of land, and as the Eldorado Heritage Program Manager, I appreciate GBI’s support maintain this important relationship.

Photo Credit: Camilla Block

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