Government agencies have a legal responsibility to assist the Office of the State Archaeologist in protecting archaeological and historic sites.
Duties of Government Agencies
Under the Field Archaeology Act (Minnesota Statutes 138.40, Subd. 2), agencies must assist the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) and Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) with protecting archaeological and historic sites.
More specifically, this means:
- When archaeological or historical sites are known or predicted to exist on public lands, the agency controlling that land is obligated to preserve such sites and can use their funds to help with that preservation; and
- When agencies wish to perform developments on their lands where archaeological sites are known or scientifically predicted to exist, they must submit plans to OSA and MHS for review. OSA and MHS have 30 days to comment on the plans.
Under Minnesota law, as interpreted by the Office of the Attorney General, the term "agency" as used in the Field Archaeology Act refers to all units of government in Minnesota, not just state government agencies.
Public "land" means land or water areas owned, leased, or otherwise subject to "the paramount right of the state, county, township, or municipality" where archaeological sites are or may be located. This means all non-federal public entities and the lands they own or manage are subject to the Field Archaeology Act.
When to Contact Us
If there is a chance a significant archaeological or historic site may be impacted by development on public land, the controlling agency must submit plans to OSA and MHS, per state law.
This is necessary because most agencies currently do not have direct access to archaeological and historic site inventories and most do not have personnel who are reasonably capable of predicting where sites may be located.
However, because OSA and MHS have very limited resources to review agency development plans due to other responsibilities and requirements of other laws, it is recommended that agencies contact OSA or MHS only if they are reviewing or proposing actions that:
- may affect an archaeological or historic site which is known or reported to them;
- may involve large scale terrain alteration; or
- involve terrain disturbance in an area adjacent to a lake or river.
For more information on OSA project and plan reviews, please see our Project Review Procedures page.
The state archaeologist is also involved in the environmental review processes established by the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (Minnesota Statutes 116D). For example, Responsible Governmental Units (RGUs) for Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs) are required to provide a copy of all EAWs to the state archaeologist; the state archaeologist has 30 days to comment on the EAW.
Our Project Review Procedures page has more information on environmental review processes and expectations.