Idaho wildfires expose artifacts

Thursday , September 20, 2012 - 9:56 AM

Idaho Wildfires

The Karney Fire burns behind the Wilderness Ranch subdivision on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 in Boise...

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BURLEY, Idaho -- This year’s fire season not only cleared out thousands of acres of vegetation, but has also exposed culturally and historically significant artifacts across south-central Idaho.

Public lands officials are now urging people not to disturb the relics.

"The chances are pretty high that people are going to be running across something," said Suzanne Henrikson, archeologist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Burley field office. "Especially in burn areas, these relics have no vegetation to cover them."

The BLM is charged with protecting these relics and is prohibited by federal law from pinpointing the exact location of those they do find. However, Henrikson said that running across a historically valuable artifact is possible across the entire 400,000-acre BLM Twin Falls District.

"These are areas where Native Americans lived for thousands of years before we ever showed up," Henrikson said. "These artifacts vary from arrowheads to just everyday items that Native Americans might have used back then."

If the fire has exposed a new ancient artifact, the BLM must secure it before fire rehabilitation can begin. This includes documenting the relic location and pointing out where drill seeding shouldn’t occur.

There is some hesitancy from the BLM on alerting the public that there are historically significant relics now visible thanks to the fire, Henrikson said.

The agency wants to inform the public on what to do if they find something - but officials don’t want to increase the chance of vandalism, she said.

"These relics are a finite resource," she said. "Once they’re picked up and taken back, that information is lost forever."

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)2012 The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho)

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