Return to Case Digest Archives
skip navigation links
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow Section 106 in Action arrow Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases arrow Winter 2001 arrow Georgia: Fort Benning | Search

Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Georgia: Fort Benning/City of Columbus
Land Exchange

Agency: U.S. Army

Criteria for Council Involvement:

  • This undertaking will result in the transfer of lands out of Federal ownership and protection and could have placed at risk properties of traditional cultural importance to Indian tribes (Criterion 4).

  • The undertaking also initially raised questions regarding the Army's compliance with both its own and Council policies regarding tribal consultation (Criterion 2).

Recent Developments

At a formal ceremony hosted by the U.S. Army at Fort Benning on December 13, 2000, Council member Jim Huhta signed (on behalf of the Chairman) a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the proposed exchange of land between Fort Benning and the City of Columbus.

Fort Benning land exchange ceremony participants

Fort Benning land exchange ceremony participants
(Photo courtesy of Fort Benning)

Execution of the MOA drew to a close a long and difficult consultation process to address how future ownership and development of the parcel being conveyed by the Army might impact sites of importance to 11 Indian tribes whose ancestral origins and cultural traditions are tied closely to the region. Also participating in the ceremony were the Mayor of Columbus and other city representatives, as well as representatives of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the tribal governments.

In his remarks, Dr. Huhta praised the Army’s improved government-to-government relations with the tribes, the leadership and vision of the Mayor and other city officials, and the determination and commitment of the tribes. Following the meeting, Chairman Slater also commended Fort Benning in correspondence to the Secretary of the Army.

The MOA provides for placement of preservation covenants on the land conveyed to the city, thus helping to ensure that preservation values and respect for sites of traditional importance to the tribes will guide future uses of this property.


A proposal by the Army for an exchange of land between Fort Benning and Columbus, Georgia, posed a number of Section 106 challenges which the Council has been assisting the Army in resolving. Authorized by Congress a decade ago, the transfer would provide Fort Benning with land suitable for training exercises and the city with land for development.

In 1997, an MOA that would have allowed the project to proceed was executed among the Army, the City of Columbus, the Georgia SHPO, and the Council. However, with the advent of regulatory reform initiatives by both the Army and the Council, Native American consultation issues that had remained in the background during the earlier Section 106 consultation process emerged as critical flaws in the earlier agreement.

The shortcoming came to the attention of the Army's Environmental Center, which responded by requiring Fort Benning to reopen compliance with both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106. The goal was to address the effects of the proposal on the full range of historic properties, including traditional cultural places of concern to Indian tribes. More than a dozen archeological sites with importance to tribes have been identified in the affected lands. Consultation with a host of federally recognized Indian tribes with ancestral ties to the area appeared essential.

In the course of revisiting issues under NEPA, the Army reconfigured the boundaries of the lands to be exchanged, however, the new proposal still did not reflect consultation with Indian tribes. The Army proposed instead to delegate the responsibility to consult with the tribes to the city as part of covenants to be included in the transfer of the property.

The Council notified the Army that this would be an insufficient basis for a new MOA and that outreach by the Army to the tribes would be a prerequisite to concluding such a document. Ft. Benning then initiated government-to-government consultation with the tribes, with productive on-site meetings held in April and August 2000.

Policy Highlights

This case highlights the importance of tribal consultation on undertakings affecting ancestral lands. The Army has done an admirable job in compensating for earlier oversights and has set a model at Fort Benning of constructive government-to-government consultation. The case has also focused attention on the difficulty of maintaining the safeguards provided for in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act when property is conveyed out of Federal ownership.

Fall 2000 report on this case

Staff contact: Martha Catlin

Posted March 21, 2001

We welcome your feedback Return to Top