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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Summer 2003 arrow Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, & Texas: Amendment of the Forest Service Southwestern Region PA
Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, & Texas: Amendment of the Forest Service Southwestern Region Programmatic Agreement

Agency: U.S. Forest Service

A dispute between an Indian tribe and a Federal agency over construction in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest has led to better consultation with the agency over its broader activities that affect historic properties in the 20.6 million acres comprising the agency’s Southwestern region.

In this case, the White Mountain Apache Tribal Historic Preservation Officer contacted the ACHP about the Forest Service’s inadequate tribal consultation on the construction of a large telescope in Arizona.

After confirming that the historic preservation consultation agreement for the Southwestern Region Forest Service was inconsistent with current laws and policies, the ACHP helped draft an amendment to the agreement that improves tribal consultation, public involvement, and consistency with the ACHP’s current Section 106 regulations for protecting historic properties.

In 1990, the ACHP and others executed a Programmatic Agreement with the Forest Service to streamline the consultation process on the treatment of historic properties affected by projects in national forests. The agreement covers Forest Service activities in its Southwestern Region, which covers 20.6 million acres and contains six national forests in Arizona, five national forests and a national grassland in New Mexico, and one national grassland each in Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle.

Coronado National Forest, Arizona


Coronado National Forest, AZ, Forest Service Southwestern Region (photo U.S. Forest Service)


The agreement is one of the older regional Forest Service Programmatic Agreements, and is based on an older version of the ACHP’s Section 106 regulations for protecting historic properties.

In 2001, the White Mountain Apache Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) requested that the ACHP terminate the regional agreement because of inconsistencies with the current law, regulations, and policies. The tribe was frustrated with its dealings with the Coronado National Forest regarding the construction of a large telescope on Mt. Graham in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. To its dismay, the Forest Service had approved the University of Arizona’s request to locate the telescope on Mt. Graham, an Apache sacred site known as Dzil Nchaa Si An: “Big Seated Mountain.”

In response to the THPO’s request, the ACHP recommended that the old agreement be updated to address inadequacies in tribal consultation and public involvement, and to be consistent with the ACHP’s current regulations.

Although the Forest Service was initially reluctant to amend the agreement because it considerably streamlined the consultation process for the agency’s undertakings, the agency acquiesced, and notified tribes of the proposed amendment and requested their comments. In 2002, the agency produced a draft amended agreement and requested comments from the ACHP and the relevant State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO).

In May and June 2003, the ACHP met with the Forest Service and the New Mexico and Arizona SHPOs to discuss the draft agreement in light of the comments received by the Forest Service and their own recommendations.

The amended agreement, which is expected to be executed shortly, will allow increased streamlining of the consultation process for national forest undertakings in the Southwestern Region, but will also ensure that roles and responsibilities are clarified among project stakeholders. The amendment is expected to include some creative approaches to improve uniformity among national forests in the region and resolve longstanding issues between national forests and SHPOs.

Consistent with the requirements of the new Executive order, “Preserve America,” the amendment encourages national forests to work with SHPOs to promote good stewardship of their heritage resources through tools such as Heritage Preservation Plans, sample inventory strategies, and standard consultation protocols.

Staff contact: Carol Legard

Updated November 20, 2003

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