USU surveying Wyoming elk refuge

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded USU Archeological Services (USUAS) a contract to conduct an archaeological inventory on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyo. Funding for the $28,000 project comes from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Based in Logan, Utah, USUAS is a cultural resource management firm developed by the Anthropology Program at Utah State University, affiliated with USU’s Technology Commercialization Office. The project is the first-ever large-scale survey of the National Elk Refuge, and the work identifies numerous Euroamerican and Native American archaeological sites. USUAS archaeologist Molly Boeka Cannon directs the project. The National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to collect data and to consider effect on cultural resources whenever they perform any ground-disturbing activity. “This survey is important because we cover more than 1,000 acres of land where there had not been much archaeological research done in the past,” said Cannon. “We were able to inventory cultural resources that had never been studied.” Utah State University anthropology student Courtney Johnson and USUAS archaeologists Stephanie Crockett and Vicki Varnum, working with archaeologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, locate and record the historic and prehistoric resources in the survey area. The inventory is part of a Recovery Act project to install an irrigation system at the refuge. Presently, the refuge uses ditches that date from 1887-1911 to irrigate tracks of land. The ditches, along with remnants of former homesteads, dot the landscape. Workers from Yerba Buena Construction are installing an irrigation system to replace the ditches using ARRA funds. The irrigation system helps the refuge manage elk herds by expanding natural habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service consulted with tribes, the state of Wyoming Historic Preservation Office and local historic societies before Yerba Buena began working on the project. USUAS staff members are preparing a report detailing the findings of the survey and will complete the document in June. “The irrigation project is going to have significant ground disturbances,” said Cannon. “We conduct these surveys so we can inventory any prior use of the landscape and learn how people lived and used the land in the past. If we need to, we can develop disturbance mitigation plans to preserve the resource.”

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