Meet the Boise Wiki on May 4!


Come try out the Boise Wiki, a new website about Boise past and present to which anyone can contribute! Get hands-on help from its founder, Leslie Madsen-Brooks, and learn how easy (and fun!) it is to share what you know about Boise.

We’ll have a couple of computers available for visitors to use, but we encourage you to bring your own device, too.

Noon – 3 p.m., May 4, 2013

Sesqui-Shop, 1008 Main Street, Boise, ID

Questions about the Boise Wiki?  E-mail lesliemadsen-brooks -at- boisestate -dot- edu


Resources for April 29

Section 106: Further reading

The National Endowment for the Humanities explains Section 106 in detail (PDF)

How to initiate Section 106 consultation with the Idaho SHPO

A blog about Section 106 proceedings at one particular site

A Section 106 worksheet (PDF)

Section 106 case digest from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Readability and Comprehensibility as NEPA Minimums (PDF): a report mentioned in Our Unprotected Heritage

Topock Section 106 (PDF): see discussion beginning on page 25


Questions for discussion

1. What are the benefits and liabilities of the Section 106 process, in theory and in practice?

2. Do you think it’s good that NEPA and NHPA are so closely related? In what ways are “light green” laws related to what King terms “heritage laws”?

3. Evaluate King’s “Memo to President Obama” (pp. 161-64) and Beckerman’s recommendations to the Obama administration (pp. 170-71).  Which of the recommendations do you find most compelling and workable?  Explain your answer.  Which are you less enthusiastic about, and why?

4. In small groups, consider one of the following documents and follow the instructions associated with it.  Be prepared to present your findings to the class and answer questions about them.

Samples of Section 106 programmatic agreements:

  • from Idaho (PDF): Diagram the review/consultation process.
  • from Alaska (PDF): Diagram the review/consultation process.
  • from Minnesota (PDF): Diagram the process to date, as well as the process for future review, preservation, and exemptions.

5. How much do King’s criticisms, arguments, and recommendations apply to the document you examined in #4?

Resources for class discussion, April 22

Last-minute readings

I sent an e-mail last night asking you to read some of Chauncey DeVega’s blog posts and articles, as he will be calling into our class today.  Here are the ones he recommended because they have attracted the greatest traffic or crossed over into the mainstream media:

Racism and sexism are killing the U.S. economy

No, Jesus wasn’t a white dude

Dear Angry White Conservatives Mourning Romney’s Loss: Chill Out

Is a Crisis in White Masculinity Leading to Horrific Gun Crimes Like the Sandy Hook Shootings?

White Men Like Adam Lanza Commit 70 Percent of the Mass Shootings in the United States. Why is the Media Afraid to Talk About This Obvious Fact?

Connecticut School Shooting: If Adam Lanza was Named Tariq Muhammad Would the Media be Calling This an Act of “Terrorism?”

White Men and Mass Murder: Did a Sense of “Aggrieved Entitlement” Lead Adam Lanza to Kill 26 People at Sandy Hook Elementary School?

White Supremacists Hear Mitt Romney’s Racist Welfare “Dog Whistles” Crystal Clear

What Took Him So Long? More Than “Dog Whistles” Mitt Romney Finally Goes Full Birther

Tales of a Race-Baiting Mormon: The Personal and Political Hypocrisy of Mitt Romney

Racial Aikido: The Genius of Mitt Romney’s “Barack Obama is a Lazy Negro Who Ain’t Working” Ad Campaign

How Deep is the Commitment of Black Conservatives? Would the African American Signers of the Mount Vernon Statement Sell Themselves Back Into Slavery?

About Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega (a pseudonym) is editor and founder of We Are Respectable Negroes, a blog on race, popular culture, and politics.  His work there has been featured by the New York Times, Utne Reader, and The Atlantic. In addition to the blog, DeVega’s work has appeared in various books, as well as on such sites as the Washington Post’s The Root, The Daily Beast, Alternet, SalonWashington Monthly, Slate, and PopMatters.  DeVega has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland’s Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground.

Section 106

The National Endowment for the Humanities explains Section 106 in detail (PDF)

How to initiate Section 106 consultation with the Idaho SHPO

A blog about Section 106 proceedings at one particular site

A Section 106 worksheet (PDF)

Section 106 case digest from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Readability and Comprehensibility as NEPA Minimums (PDF): a report mentioned in Our Unprotected Heritage

Topock Section 106 (PDF): see discussion beginning on page 25

Samples of Section 106 programmatic agreements:




Ethics, Part II

Thomas F. King really dived into the issue of protecting our heritage in his book, but that is a very obvious observation giving such the title of his book. Interesting aspects of his book were, as others have mentioned, laws and bureaucracies. While both laws and bureaucracies bring about their own unique problems to heritage protection. Being able to examine and pick apart the issues within those two aspects of the King’s book allows the reader to come to a common conclusion in order to protect our heritage. We must not only actively participate as an individual to save our heritage, but work to get the community involved as well.

Dealing with government agencies can seem like an impossible task at times. Everyone has some story about the inability of some government agency to accomplish any task in a quick and efficient way. The ineffectiveness of certain bureaucracies and the individuals within them seems to create a stereotype that people easily accept. The stereotype being that the various bureaucracies and the laws that they use are inept to adequately handle the tasks that lay before them or to deal with the people who come to them. As Jim pointed out, King’s pessimistic attitude toward bureaucracies hides the fact that there are people within the system who want to help protect places of historical or cultural value.

Although the book King wrote has an agenda in terms of heritage sites and development, he does manage to convey to the reader the difficulties present in conservation. I think having spent a part of his life battling aspects of the system in order to protect heritage sites created a pessimistic, or defeatist, attitude within King. When you witness something destroyed and felt that the system in place proved incompetent at procuring the goal you wanted, it can become soul crushing. Knowing this perspective helps to show people the portion of the reality that exists in conservation and having this knowledge prepares one to undertake this, at times, seemingly hopeless mission.

Thoughts on Unprotected Heritage

Our Unprotected Heritage by Thomas F. King is written in an easy, informal style. The style of writing makes the book easy to read, but the content of the book is difficult to swallow. King lays out for the reader the basics of what the world of cultural and historic preservation looks like from the inside, and the major problems with the process.

In section 106, according to King, it says that “federal agencies must ‘take into account’—that is consider—the effects of their actions on historic properties.” Here in lies a huge part of the problem, because agencies are only asked to consider their actions, not report on them, not explain them; Section 106 really doesn’t provide or enforce anything. False and fraudulent reports by EIA firms and CRM firms, hired by developers are technically following Section 106. The major problems that contribute to our losing cultural and environment resources are that the legislation meant to protect it is too convoluted and vague. Vagueness is something that works in the favor of those avoiding the spirit of law, when it comes to preservation. Those who do not wish to consult with local groups also use convoluted statements to their advantage. As noted by King, “obfuscation is often very convenient for a project proponent, or for an agency that doesn’t want to be bothered by the public. If they can confuse enough, you’ll give up and go away,”

The main problem is abstractions vs. real solid policies. Right now, policies make the assumption (as King says we should never do) that people care about cultural heritage, the environment, and other people. Suggestions don’t make people care, and neither do laws, but at least laws keep them beholden and offer an alternative of punishment.

Within agencies, it seems that no one is willing to step up and take responsibility or work through any project that may be messy—in fact, it seems like within federal agencies their whole job is devoted to creative methods of avoiding actual work. Section 106 regulations, as quoted by King “say to look at all kinds of effects, all kinds of properties, and to do so in consultation with interested parties.” Again, the wording of this clause makes it easy for people to interpret it any way they wish. Many agencies can simply create their own definitions of what “effects” “properties” and “consultation” means to them. True consultation is avoided since, as King points out, “Consultation is unnecessary, irrelevant, a mere bother if you’ve decided what you’re going to do and aren’t interested in considering alternatives.” Further, government agencies are just making things up to avoid doing work.

Compared to the other historic preservation book we read, this one is much more honest and realistic—and therefore refreshing. Although, King doesn’t give us a playbook about how to improve every situation he does take a critical first step in outlining where we need to begin in preserving our cultural heritage and natural environments. I think anyone working for a federal agency, contractor, and developer needs to read this book; so they know that people like King are well aware of what they are doing and that knowledge is being sharing with the rest of us.

Ethics, Take Two

I do not think it is necessarily surprising to many that bureaucracy makes things more difficult. Just because a law is on the books does not mean that it will be enforced in the manner that everyone might want it to be. In an ideal world, historical places and events would be protected for future generations. The problem then becomes what history and what events?  Sometimes people can become too myopic when it comes to preserving one specific thing. A Civil War battlefield, for example, is culturally significant, but that battle is likely not the only important thing that has occurred there.

I do not agree with the argument that business, corporations or even the government are the antithesis of preservation or conservation. There are many, many businesses and agencies that act responsibly with regards to not only cultural but also environmental issues. While King’s book and blog were informative, I do not know that they actually contribute to a solution. A more balanced approach to the topic would have done more to elucidate the issues and provide tools for future public historians.

Reflections on Ethical Dilemmas, Part II

After reading Thomas King’s book, Our Protected Heritage, I am more convinced than ever that I do not want to work for the federal government. Although I have a passion for public lands, and I understand the need to promote awareness and stewardship of these lands, I have no desire to seek out a career that is so laden with problems and self-induced headaches. King points out that the policies that are in place (NHPA and NEPA) developed with the hopes of protecting “our national and cultural heritage in the environment – the places and things that we citizens cherish” (King, 13). However, King argues that “we’ve drifted away from the intent of the laws, making them more and more pointless, less and less useful in protecting anything, except the profit margins of some companies and the jobs of some government employees.” While I can understand King’s frustrations with the outcomes of these laws, I do hope that he has realized that these are not the only policies that resulted in less-than-desired outcomes. Most of the laws and policy that Congress created did not workout the way they were supposed to. The 1942 Migrant Worker Legislation and the 1965 Immigration Legislation are prime examples of this. The 1942 legislation created the Bracero Program, a migrant guest worker program with Mexico, however, this program created significantly more problems than it ever intended to solve. Similarly, the 1965 legislation attempted to undo the discriminatory quota system that the government used to regulate immigration since 1924. However, this law also led to unforeseen consequences and even further complicated the immigration process. These are just two of many examples of problems that federal policies have created. And yet, King seems to think that the environmental policies the only policies that have been unsuccessful. What is even more infuriating, however, it that King thinks he can determinately point the blame for these failures on development companies hoping to seek a profit (King, 14). Not only is King’s attack on business narrow-minded, (and rather liberally biased) but I find it extremely difficult to think that the possible destruction that cultural and historic sites currently face is the result of the greed of one single stake-holder. Although I agree with King that our cultural heritage is in danger, I can hardly agree that business alone is the reason for this predicament.



Atlantis, Voices, and Protection…oh my!

Cultural resource management is a tough and complicated field.  That is what I got from reading Tom King’s book.  His bleak outlook on the laws and mandates created to give voice to those whose heritage is threatened by profiteering is sobering.  He makes it seem like even trying to protect the environment or historic sites is impossible.  The unlimited money bag of companies whose main goal is increasing the weight of those bags makes it difficult to stop the misuse of cultural resources or the environment.  That is King’s main point.  I think that he is burdened by years of fighting a good fight that no one else seems to care about.  Here’s what I am taking away from this book. We have to get as good at protecting our resources as contractors and businesses are at working around the laws created to protect our heritage.  States have to enact laws with teeth.  You come here, you pollute our ground, you tear up our land and you are going to pay and pay and pay.  Make it hurt for companies at their bottom line and they might think twice about some of their underhanded tactics.

We also have to be aware of when we are being sold a bill of goods.  My mind springs instantly to BP.  Recently this oil company has been running ads stating that they have happily and willingly done a wonderful job cleaning up the environment surrounding the coast.  They boast about the amount of money that they have poured into cleanup.  They swear that the people who live there are happy with the results.  They promise that the environment has returned to normal and tourism is higher than it ever was before.  All of that is of course, false.  BP is attempting to weasel out of its commitments and is fighting several lawsuits in court.  They want out of their responsibilities but the people of the gulf coast are not letting this slide into oblivion.  Neither are the states that were hurt by the spill.  I know that most issues don’t have quite as much coverage as this one, but most American’s have forgotten that the spill ever happened.  Being heard might be hard, but it has to be accomplished if you want to protect you land.

Finally, I wonder how interested people would be in preserving an archaeological site if they knew that by studying it we could learn that prehistoric cultures in Idaho were invaded by Polynesian’s with laser rifles who sailed across the Pacific Ocean at a time when London was a circle of huts.  I’m not saying that happened, but the truth is we don’t know what evidence lies in an archaeological site until we dig it out and examine it.  That is why preservation is important and good.  Not because of any inherent value in the site, but because we don’t know what is there until it is examined.  As a philosopher once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”  Well an unexamined dig site has the capacity to answer any number of questions about our ancestors (or possibly the lost continent of Atlantis).  If that is blown up to put in a new railroad that profits no one but the rail company, then what have we lost?  Preservation may not always be the answer.  Wanton destruction of cultural landmarks in the name of profit is not the answer either.  The good of the many has to be taken into consideration against the good of the few, but no one is doing that!  This is King’s point.  The laws were created to protect people and give them the opportunity to plead their case and corporate greed and overworked government employees are pushing projects through to fast to make sure that anyone who wants to have a say is listened to and heard.  Major fail on that one.

Unprotected Heritage

King’s book seems like a good introduction to the issues involved with the different protection agencies and rules within the US. If I wanted to be scared away from getting a job working with, as, or against these different agencies then this would be the perfect book! He had me running scared when he compared workers to the Nazis that took Anne Frank. Like most thinly veiled insults in the book he quickly laughed off his words, but Godwin would certainly be pleased.

King’s book seemed to be constantly at odds with itself. Albeit, his topic is complex and obviously not easily solved as years of governmental attempts have proven. In his first chapter he points the preverbal finger at Bush and his administrations lack of legislative action on environmental issues and then a few paragraphs later observes that putting the federal government in charge of these laws “…put foxes in charge of guarding the henhouse…”(I don’t know how to post footnotes for Kindle books…). Each and every example showed what was wrong with the system and the dastardly people who got in the way of progress. He did of course put a disclaimer that the people within the system most likely weren’t purposefully clogging the system, but the disclaimer was often very little and then quite late. I have to agree with Zach that his tone comes across like that of a conspiracy theorist. I find that quite unfortunate because I think he may have had something worthwhile to say when he wasn’t blaming the Bush administration for the world’s problems.

The Constitutional Amendment, likely to most people surprise, is probably my favorite solution provided. The rest seem overly optimistic (i.e. asking Pres. Obama to tell everyone to do better at their jobs) and I fear the public won’t be quite as helpful should their attention be brought to the matter. Amending the Constitution on and providing a firm foundation for the “right to a clean, safe, and sustainable environment” would be the most functional solution. I personally error on the side of a smaller federal government, but perserving the natural beauties of Montana while protecting the citizen’s rights and livelihoods does appeal to me.

I certainly believe that preservation of our land’s natural beauty and heritage is a worthwhile cause or else I wouldn’t be aiming for the career I am. However, the consequences of our actions and and prospective of our decisions do need to keep in mind current people too. King’s examples were worrisome and (as he admits in his “A last word about Objectivity”) biased chosen to prove his points. I will be interested to hear what everyone else thought of the book and their different (and likely passionate) positions on the issues and solutions presented.