Los Padres National Forest, CA – Los Padres National Forest leadership ignored staff experts to repeatedly approve projects that damage and destroy priceless cultural artifacts, according to a white paper released today by California Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (California PEER).Ruined Relics:Crumbling Cultural Resource Protection at Los Padres National Forest, written by former Los Padres employees and volunteers, explains how Forest Supervisor Jeanine Derby has violated federal law by promoting recreational uses of the forest at the expense of its cultural resources.
Los Padres National Forest holds one of the nation’s most valuable collections of historic and prehistoric sites. As the ancestral home of Chumash, Salinan, and Esselen Indian Tribes, the Forest is teeming with artifacts documenting 8,000 years of cultural evolution. But construction projects, fire-prevention practices, motorized vehicle trails, cattle grazing and recreational uses have contributed to permanent damage of irreplaceable scientific treasures.
Ruined Relics describes how Forest archaeologists disclosed numerous violations to the State Office of Historic Preservation in the mid-1990s. Derby and other Forest leaders subsequently retaliated against the whistleblowers, relieving them of their responsibilities and replacing them with less experienced but obedient employees. Since that time, unnecessary damage to cultural sites to continued unabated, including:
The destruction of aprehistoric village when a road was built without a construction monitor,
Allowing off-highway vehicles to run roughshod across thirty historic and prehistoric archaeological sites, and
Permitting cattle to trample major archaeological deposits and damage ancient rock paintings.
In addition, the archaeologist who established the Forest’s award-winning volunteer program has been banned from participating in the program. Once the heart of Los Padres’ cultural resources program, “Partners in Preservation” has essentially been abandoned. Damage reported by volunteers goes unaddressed.
“Every artifact destroyed today represents information lost to the world forever,” commented California PEER Director Karen Schambach.” The stewardship of irreplaceable cultural resources should only be entrusted to those who appreciate their value and are committed to their preservation.”