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Environmental Review

Recognizing that archaeological sites contain valuable information on our common heritage and history, state and Federal laws have been passed that protect sites from destruction by government actions.  Two of the most important laws are Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  As part of the environmental review process conducted for Federally funded or permitted projects, managers must make a reasonable effort to identify archaeological sites that could be destroyed by construction activities.  Examples of such projects include those highway and bridge funding, gas pipeline or wetland permits and federal housing grants.  If important sites are found, measures must be taken to avoid significant sites, recover the significant information before it is lost, or make up for the loss in some other way.

Bureau for Historic Preservation staff work on environmental review projects

Federal law also defines a role for citizens in the treatment and protection of archaeological sites.  The public at large is represented by the State Historic Preservation Office, which in Pennsylvania is called the Bureau for Historic Preservation, a part of the PHMC.  But the laws also mandate public meetings so that interested citizens can express their concerns and opinions about projects near their homes.  Federal agencies may advertise these meetings through newsletters or in the newspaper.  They often also notify historical societies and museums.  You may have information about properties that have been overlooked or you may think a property has been incorrectly evaluated.  You may also express your opinion on which of several project alternatives you think would be best.  The consultation process involves building consensus on how archaeological sites should be treated.

Related Links
  • For summaries of some of the Pennsylvania projects conducted to comply with Federal laws, see our section on Compliance Summaries.
  • For more information on the role of citizens in protecting archaeological sites, visit the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation Web site for a brochure on A Citizens Guide to Section 106 Review.
  • Developers seeking guidance for review of projects in Pennsylvania should visit the PHMC’s Environmental Review Submission Guidance.