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List highlights threats to sacred and historic sites
FRIDAY, MAY 30, 2003

A lake in New Mexico held as sacred by several tribes and an area in Georgia known as the cradle of Muscogee civilization were named two of the nation's most endangered places on Thursday.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual list of threatened sites was a diverse mix that included an airport terminal in New York, a Revolutionary battleground in Massachusetts and a bridge in Kansas. What they all have in common is their irreplaceable contribution to America's history, said Peter Brink, a senior vice president for the organization.

"The list is a wake-up call for all of us to realize that some of our most important cultural resources are in trouble," Brink said in Washington, D.C.

For the Zuni Salt Lake and Sanctuary Zone in western New Mexico, the threat is an 18,000-acre coal mine that was approved by the Bush administration last summer. Although Secretary of Interior Gale Norton imposed some limits on water needed for project, tribes in the area believe the lake, used to collect salt for ceremonial uses, will be destroyed.

The Zuni Tribe is leading opposition to the mine and is joined by other tribes in the Southwest. To support the efforts, the Trust is calling on Salt River Project, an Arizona utility company, to drop its proposal and for Norton to re-examine her approval.

In Georgia, a proposed highway development is cited as a danger to the Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia, an area the Muscogee (Creek) Nation once called home. Tribal ancestors lived there until they were forcibly removed in the 1800s as part of the federal government's policy of removal.

What they have left behind is an incredible history that dates back 12,000 years. "This is one of the largest collections of archaeological resources in the United States," Brink said.

The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, which includes the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole tribes, are on the record opposing the freeway and 20 others have joined them. The Trust is calling on the Georgia Department of Transportation to consider a route that doesn't cut through the Old Fields.

Being named to the endangered list can save a site from certain death. Last year, Oklahoma City's Gold Dome Bank, which appeared on the 2001 list, was saved from demolition.

Awareness of the threats posed to an historic place can also bring change. Although the Valley of the Chiefs in Montana, home to ancient rock art and other sacred sites, didn't appear on any list, it was saved from an oil drilling project last year. Leasing rights were handed over to the National Trust after a coalition of Indian and non-Indian interests banded together to oppose development.

2003 Most Endangered List:
Zuni Salt Lake and Sanctuary Zone | Ocmulgee Old Fields | Full List

Relevant Links:
National Trust for Historic Preservation - http://www.nationaltrust.org

Related Stories:
Federal funds used for shooting range near sacred site (03/25)
Tribal school project on 'endangered' parks list (01/15)
Sacred site bill increases tribal voice (7/19)
Interior has few answers at Senate hearing (7/18)
House clears sale of sacred site to church (6/18)
N.M. tribe challenges coal mine approval (6/3)
Input sought into sacred sites (6/5)
Congress considering sacred sites (5/21)
Tribes push action on sacred sites (3/21)
Tribe prevails on sacred site case (3/19)
Norton denies politics played role in drilling (6/7)
Norton hit on exploration of sacred site (6/6)
Myers reversing sacred site opinion (10/25)

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