Studying history has made me think at times that I’ve become immune to shock and outrage, and that nothing could phase me anymore. But reading about these Heritage Laws and the way they operate left me dumbfounded once again. I suppose I should not be surprised, given the complicated way our bureaucratic government operates, but it blows me away how easy the statutes and regulations could be manipulated and corrupted beyond their original intent. As someone who was unfamiliar with these laws and regulations, I had no idea how they functioned or were enforced so this reading was certainly eye-opening to all the issues that have come up in the forty years since their implementation. The sad but true reality that King relays is that these Heritage Laws are riddled with biased consultants, administration interests in profit, complicated review systems, and exclusion of the public from taking part in any aspect of the laws. Even in chapter 8 when King introduced Caldwell’s alternatives in addition to his own, King is adamant that the system requires complete overhaul, not just the rectification of a few elements of the laws. With this in mind, it seems like a very daunting task, which is precisely why nothing has been done to fix the statutes and regulations.
In my opinion, one of the most important issues that King raises is concerning the public’s involvement with Heritage Laws. In chapter 6 he states that “people who want to protect some aspect of their heritage from destruction- often themselves don’t push for it, don’t insist on it, don’t even recognize it as something that government agencies ought to do.” The very people who want to protect their environment or heritage are alienated within the system because of the jargon, lack of awareness and consultation, ignored input, and lack of funding to hire people like King to fight on the public’s behalf, and that seems wrong on all levels. King detailed how he submitted a paper to agencies in chapter 7. The subsequent response from the BLM illustrates how even an expert such as King gets pushed aside. If he is given the runaround, I cannot imagine someone like me trying to make any sort of changes. I guess all this just reaffirms that despite its importance, history is a depressing business and unfortunately, most people don’t care.