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Government Affairs Update

Challenges for Archaeology

Donald Forsyth Craib

The discipline and practice of archaeology face several challenges with the advent of the 104th Congress. Reduced appropriations for archaeological programs, agency reorganizations, and proposed regulatory changes all have the potential to drastically change the way archaeology is conducted in the United States. SAA has already begun working on ways to protect the gains that archaeology has made over the years by commenting on proposed regulations, preparing to testify before Congress, attending hearings, and working with groups in Washington with similar interests. Information is presented below on two of the many issues that SAA's government affairs staff and committee is currently monitoring.

Administration's Budget Request

The fiscal year 1996 figures from the Clinton administration show $20 billion for natural resources, including cultural resources, and environmental programs—the same amount approved by Congress for fiscal 1995. Specifically, the 1996 budget request for the Interior Department is $9.66 billion, an increase of $52 million over the previous year, including $1.55 billion for the National Park Service, a net increase of $74.1 million over the enacted level for fiscal 1995. The Historic Preservation Fund budget request is $43 million, up from $41.4 million that was appropriated in fiscal 1995. The Bureau of Land Management's fiscal 1996 request is $1.24 billion, representing a net increase of $52 million over last year.

SAA will testify before Congress this April regarding the level of funding provided for archaeological and cultural resource programs in the administration's proposed budget and stress the need to sustain appropriate levels of funding that enable agencies to continue to provide necessary functions required by law.

UNIDROIT Draft Convention on the International Protection of Cultural Property

The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) is drafting a convention that would significantly improve archaeological preservation and protection throughout the world by requiring greater diligence on the part of purchasers of antiquities, and by providing broader means of recovering trafficked items that have been illegally excavated or removed from their countries of origin. A major goal of the treaty is to reduce the illegal trafficking in antiquities.

Bruce D. Smith, president of SAA, recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of State expressing SAA's support for the department's continuing effort to successfully negotiate the draft UNIDROIT treaty, and commending the department's commitment to international and domestic archaeological protection and preservation. To ensure that archaeological concerns continue to be a focus of the negotiations, Smith urged the department to continue its inclusion of an archaeological expert as part of the U.S. delegation. Currently, Frank McManamon, departmental consulting archaeologist, U.S. Department of the Interior, is a member of the U.S. delegation.

Opponents of the draft treaty question whether the preservation of U.S. archaeological sites would be aided by ratification of the UNIDROIT convention, and suggest that there is no international market for U.S. antiquities. Even if effective at reducing international trafficking in antiquities, the opponents claim that the adoption of the treaty would not improve the protection of U.S. sites.

In order to counter these assertions, SAA is collecting information about international trafficking in U.S. antiquities. Any information, data, or studies proving the existence of an international market for U.S. antiquities would be appreciated. Materials can be sent to me at SAA headquarters.

Government Affairs Network Survey

On page 19 you will find a copy of the Government Affairs Network (GAN) survey, which I encourage you to fill out and return to me. As President Smith states, "It is essential that all of us become more involved in voicing our concerns and influencing Congress in a proactive manner."

SAA's government affairs program requires member participation to be truly effective. If you would like to join in this effort or have any questions or suggestions, please contact me at SAA headquarters, 900 2nd Street, N.E., #12, Washington, D.C. 20002, (202) 789-8200, fax (202) 789-0284.

Donald Forsyth Craib is manager of government affairs and counsel of SAA.


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