The Dirt on Cultural Resources

Lithic scatter at Pine Creek

Throughout the Columbia Basin are many sites like this one at Pine Creek where lithic scatter–the remains of stone tool production and other cultural artifacts–can be found on the surface. Photo: Lee Stilson/DNR.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages more than 3 million acres of trust land and 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands throughout the state. These properties are located in a variety of landscapes—upland, forested, riverine, estuarine, and many more—that have been used by people for generations. Overseeing the surveying, documenting, and recording of cultural resources on trust and aquatic lands are two State Lands Archaeologists assisted by approximately 50 DNR employees trained as cultural resources technicians.

What are cultural resources and why is it important to identify them? Cultural resources include archaeological and historic sites, artifacts, traditional sites, and objects used by Native Americans. Examples of cultural resources include graves, cave or rock shelters, culturally modified trees, tools, shells, shipwrecks, bones, weapons, etc. Historical sites or artifacts also can include old farm equipment and outbuildings, corrals and holding pens, logging camps, tools, and trails. These sites and artifacts are found throughout our state, both above and below ground, and above and below water level. Because some cultural resources and sites date back thousands of years and may be invisible to the unknowing eye, it’s important to identify them so they can be preserved and studied. Undisturbed sites are especially important because they may yield information to archaeologists on past land-use practices and the impact they made on the local landscape and the people who lived there.

Tieton structure

Tieton structure that is a cultural resource. Photo: Lee Stilson/DNR.

It is vital, both ethically and legally, that DNR identify cultural resources on state trust and aquatic lands. This obligation includes developing plans, where necessary, to maintain site integrity because disturbance may cause damage, either intentional or unintentional, that can render a site’s hidden information useless.

A key player in protecting these important sites and artifacts of present and past cultures is the recreational user. We urge everyone who recreates on trust land to report any cultural resources they discover to DNR. Please contact any of our region offices for assistance; the local land manager for the area in which you have identified cultural resources also will be happy to help.

Tim Kopf
Goldendale Unit Land Manager, Washington State DNR Southeast Region

Taking a Different Approach for a Puget Island Public Auction

Puget Island

Bidders had many options to select or combine the four parcels offered for lease on Puget Island. Image: DNR

Sometimes, the best way to get a good lease value for a unique parcel of state trust land to take a different approach. A distinctive combination of sloughs, access points, production capabilities, and rental history led to DNR’s decision to offer a 200-acre parcel of Common School State trust land for lease under four separate lease parcels. What’s also unusual is that these parcels are on Puget Island, which lies within the Columbia River channel between Cathlamet, Washington, and Clatskanie, Oregon.   

Historically, these trust lands were grazed and hayed. An adjacent trust land parcel was leased for hybrid poplar production. While watching the hybrid poplar potential, DNR used an interim strategy of single-year livestock permits for the 200-acre parcel. The short-term nature of the permits led to the land and fences becoming weary. The compromised land condition, coupled with the decision to shy away from the cyclical hybrid poplar industry, led to the decision to offer ten-year term livestock based leases because it would give an operator the time and incentive to plow resources into the land. The goal is to improve the overall ecological conditions and productivity (including operator profitability) of this unique parcel of state trust land.

Given the unique nature of the land, a sealed bid public auction was offered with several cropping and acreage options to a wide range of potential bidders. The auction was designed to allow prospective leasees the opportunity to: 

  • Bid on anywhere from one to all four parcels;
  • Designate for each parcel bid upon, the number of acres in livestock grazing (at a set rent per acre) and the number of acres in dryland crops (at another set rent per acre);
  • Submit a plan of operations for each parcel (and use(s)) bid upon; or
  • Submit a bonus bid for each parcel bid upon.

The array of auction bid options worked. The response to DNR’s public lease auction was several bid packets from well qualified, experienced operators. The total monetary bids were very competitive and surprisingly close to one another, generating good immediate, as well as long-term, income to the Common School trust beneficiaries for this small and unique farm land. The final results were: one parcel leased as a combination of grazing and dryland agriculture; another parcel leased for dryland agriculture only; and the other two parcels awarded to a single bidder and combined under a single grazing and dryland agriculture lease. 

Pat Hennessy
Leasing Manager, Pacific Cascade Region

Coordinated Resource Management on Trust Land

Washington rangeland

Washington rangeland. Photo: Ryan Cloud/DNR.

More than 300,000 acres of state trust grazing lands are involved in the Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) process. The goal of CRM is to empower local people to solve land use and natural resource issues, together, through collaborative problem solving.

The CRM program supports collaborative, locally-led processes to address natural resource issues. CRM applies to all communities and natural resource situations including areas dominated by public lands, private lands, or a mixture of the two.

To learn more about CRM click this link to read an article by Jim Huckabay, a CRM Task Group member in Washington State and retired Geography instructor at Central Washington University.

Irrigated Crop Rotations

Corn-Harvest-lftGrowing different crops on the same field in a preplanned succession is known as crop rotation. Crop rotation seeks to balance the different fertility demands of various crops to avoid excessive depletion of soil nutrients. It also helps avoid or reduce the buildup of pathogens (diseases) or other pests (insects). 

By rotating crops, irrigated farmers can keep their fields under continuous production, without the need to let them lie fallow. This practice reduces the need for additional fertilizers or herbicides; both of which are expensive. 

Some farmers take it a step further by growing crops for the sole purpose of improving soil characteristics. They leave the crop unharvested, allowing it to become incorporated into the soil and add nutrients and organic matter (known as ‘green manure’). Once the unharvested crop is tilled in, soil microorganisms aid can the decomposition of this fresh material. The vegetation degradation allows the nutrients held within the green manure to be released and made available to the succeeding crop. 

Wheat-2-lftBrian Drouhard uses green manure and rotational strategies to improve his crop quality and yield on DNR-managed land he leases in Franklin County. “Including a mustard crop into our cropping system adds cost but I prefer to think about it as an investment; an investment that pays dividends including increased organic matter, improved water holding capacity, reduced erosion, better soil fertility and greater disease control.”

In the long run, Brian and other farmers who practice crop rotation expect to reap the benefits of better soil and a reduce need for fertilizers and herbicides.

Toby McKay
Tri-Cities Unit Land Manager, SE Region

Useful Links and Upcoming Events

WSDA Centennial Day
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) at WSDA Centennial Day at the state Capitol on April 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (same day as the Washington Cattlemen’s Association barbecue lunch on the Capitol lawn).

Poster Contest
April 15 is the deadline for the WSDA’s “Future of Agriculture in Washington” poster contest for 4th through 12th grade students around the state.

2013 Beef Management Calendar
A calendar from Washington State University Veterinary Extension made to download and customize so you can create a management plan for your beef operation.