Letter from the President

Rick Fitzgerald                                                                                          

 

Time present and time past, 
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

– T.S. Eliot

 

AS ARCHAEOLOGISTS,  OUR  PERSPECTIVE  IS  NECESSARILY PAST-ORIENTED. HOWEVER I would like to begin my first column with a glimpse towards the future of the SCA and our discipline as a whole. The immediate future of our society appears bright, due to the diligence and hard work of our past presidents and all of their respective executive board members. Membership is up, our finances are stable, and our journal is thriving. We have formed stronger bonds with our southern neighbors at the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) and with tribal organizations across the state. Through the efforts of the Archaeological Resources Committee and the White Papers they have crafted, we now have a new set of professional qualifications for principal investigators (“Proposed Professional Qualifications,” SCA Newsletter vol. 47, no. 1) that have been approved by the State Historical Resources Commission, and we have a new grant program for orphaned archaeological collections. All of these developments are positive and bode well for the future. Yet there remains much to be concerned about in our discipline.

On the regulatory side of our world, the structure of the cultural re- sources management industry is vulnerable to potential changes to the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) proposed by the current administration. The changes are intended to jump-start economic growth through the implementation of multi-billion dollar “legacy projects”— such as the high-speed rail line and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta water project—but to my mind they are misguided. The merits of these undertakings are debatable, but the weakening of CEQA could have grave consequences for our state’s cultural resources.

CEQA is the “thin red line” that, when properly applied, promotes conservation of historical resources at the project planning stage. This stage is when planners might incorporate designs that avoid impacts, deed them into permanent easements, cap them with protective layers of sediment, create green spaces that incorporate sites, or use other creative means of avoiding resource destruction. Unfortunately, those measures have not been used to the extent one might imagine; more often, preservation is too quickly abandoned in favor of mitigation. Regrettably, these measures too frequently result in the complete destruction of the site. Because of the spending cap dictated by CEQA for unique archaeological resources (an amount equal to one-half of 1 percent for commercial