The Antiquities Act was enacted in 1906 to protect our nation’s archeological resources, an irreplaceable part of our heritage, from looting and destruction. But one section of the Antiquities Act wasn’t specific enough—it was actually deemed “unconstitutionally vague” by judges hearing cases against individuals accused of violating the law. So in 1979, a new law was passed to finish the job of protecting our country’s archeological history and resources—The Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).
ARPA governs the excavation, removal, and disposition of archeological resources collected on federal or Native American lands. ARPA defines archeological resources as “any material remains of human life or activities, which are at least 100 years of age and are of archeological interest.” It requires that anyone excavating or removing archeological resources have a permit to do so from a land management agency. And it forbids the sale, purchase, exchange, transport, and receipt of archeological resources.
ARPA made it very clear exactly what activities are prohibited by law. And it significantly increased penalties for violating the law. A first offense draws a fine of up to $20,000 and a year in jail; for a second offense, the perpetrator may be fined up to $100,000 and be sent to prison for as long as five years. This time, there was nothing vague about the law protecting our historical record.
ARPA is one of the 48 federal laws waived to expedite the construction of an impenetrable wall on our border with Mexico (click here for a list of all 48 federal laws that have been waived). This means that, on public and Native American lands near proposed wall construction, there are no longer any laws protecting our archeological history and resources. Important sites can be looted, dug up, or even destroyed, with no one the wiser. No one will even be watching.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members) and let them know that you oppose waiving The Archaeological Resources Protection Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.