Idaho BLM investigates Oregon Trail damage near Burley

csewell@idahostatesman.comAugust 22, 2013 

Treasure hunters have damaged pristine ruts of the Oregon Trail near Burley, according to the Idaho Bureau of Land Management Burley Field Office.

Apparently using metal detectors and shovels, the individuals located and removed hundreds of items from a few miles of trail, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The damaged ruts are part of a westward migration corridor used by pioneers during the 1800s. "This was a significant event in American history, and we are asking anyone with information about the recent damage to contact us," said BLM Burley Field Office Archaeologist Suzann Henrikson.

“It is important that the public understand that shows like 'Diggers' on Spike TV and 'American Diggers' on the National Geographic Channel do not always convey important information regarding the laws associated with damaging archaeological sites or removing artifacts from public land,” said to Henrikson in a press release. “Although owning a metal detector is not illegal, be aware that using this device on lands under federal management may result in a crime. If you sink a shovel in an archaeological site on public land, you could be convicted of a felony.” She said the collection of arrowheads is not considered a felony. However, under federal law, it is theft of government property punishable as a misdemeanor.

The ruts, located on public land managed by the BLM Burley Field Office, are protected under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) passed by Congress in 1979 in an effort to curtail destruction of our nation’s heritage from illegal excavation, damage and theft of cultural resources on federal lands.

Anyone convicted of violating ARPA may be subject up to a $20,000 fine and receive one year in prison. Second time offenders may be fined $100,000 and receive up to five years in prison. ARPA also prohibits selling, purchasing and trafficking artifacts removed from public land. "It is the BLM’s responsibility to protect and preserve any sections of the Oregon National Historic Trail under its jurisdiction," said Henrikson. "The recent damage to the trail near Burley has resulted in a significant loss of history for the American public."

Anyone with information regarding the recent damage to the Oregon Trail ruts near Burley should contact BLM Special Agent Linden Schlenker at (208) 524-7590.

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