Testimony of the Ohio Archaeological Council to the House Select Committee Studying the Effectiveness of Ohio's Historical Programs and Partnerships in Response to the Preliminary Report

Alan C. Tonetti -- Trustee, Ohio Archaeological Council

February 27, 2002

Chairman Metzger and distinguished members of the Committee, I am Alan Tonetti, past- President and currently Trustee and Chair of the Ohio Archaeological Council's Legislative Issues Committee and Native American Concerns Committee. As I previously testified, the Council is one of the partners in Ohio's historical programs, referenced by name in several sections of the Revised Code as an organization the Ohio Historical Society is to consult with concerning certain archaeological programs.

We welcome this opportunity to testify about the recommendations contained in the Committee's preliminary report. We thank the Committee, and particularly the Chairman and his staff, for their attention and cooperation in listening to all the stakeholders in this effort to sustain and enhance Ohio's historical programs and partnerships. We are optimistic about the outcome of this effort.

Regarding recommendations contained in the Committee's report that are of particular interest to the Council, we support the recommendation to have the Governor-appointed Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board participate in the development of a site accessioning and deaccessioning policy because the state has a large investment in State Memorials, many of which contain nationally and internationally significant archaeological resources, and such participation is within the Advisory Board's authority as outlined in Revised Code section 149.301. We also encourage the Committee to recommend that the Advisory Board work more closely with the State Historic Preservation Office in developing state legislation that advances the recommendations contained in your report, and in developing both a state historic preservation plan and a state archaeological preservation plan, the latter of which is a recommendation contained in your report.

We cautiously support your recommendation that the State Historic Preservation Office be transferred from the Society to the Ohio Department of Development so long as this move provides the SHPO with better financial and technological resources, and better integrates historic preservation concerns into state government at all levels. With the transfer, the statutory language contained in Revised Code section 149.301 concerning the duties of the Advisory Board, section 149.53 concerning state agency cooperation in historic preservation activities, and section 149.54 concerning rules governing archaeological investigations on state lands, will need to be reexamined. We have drafted recommendations concerning the content of these sections of the Revised Code, and will provide them as appropriate.

We strongly support the Committee's recommendation for teaching Ohio history in the curricular standards and models for grades K-12 currently being developed by the Ohio Department of Education. We further recommend that instruction in the conservation of historic resources be integrated into the social studies standards and models, as the conservation of natural resources is done in the natural sciences standards and models.

We strongly support the Committee's recommendation for a five-year financial and performance audit of the Society's historical programs. We believe this will help the Ohio Historical Society, the State of Ohio, and interested stakeholders identify program areas in which the Society needs improvement and assistance. We urge the Committee to make fiscal and performance audits public, and recommend that public comment be required in preparing these audits. We also recommend that a similar process be required of the State Historic Preservation Office.

The Council also strongly supports the recommendation for the creation of an Ohio Historical Society Operational Endowment Fund, and a legislative study of special funding mechanisms to support Ohio's historical programs and partnerships. We urge you to include the operations of the State Historic Preservation Office in the latter.

We strongly support the recommendation that the Society develop a management plan for each State Memorial on a biennial basis. We request that the Committee require the Society to undertake a public participation process in developing such plans. The lack of public input into the Society's state-funded operations has been a major concern expressed during public testimony before this Committee.

We strongly endorse the recommendation that a state archaeological preservation plan be developed and implemented. We strongly recommend that this responsibility be assigned to the State Historic Preservation Office and that it be included in the preservation recommendations in your final report to Speaker Householder, not in the miscellaneous or other category as it presently appears in the preliminary report. The development and implementation of such a plan will enable local, state and federal government agencies and stakeholders to make better decisions concerning the identification, evaluation and treatment of important archaeological sites during government assisted development projects.

We strongly support the Committee's recommendation that the Society develop one or more mechanisms to advance communication between interested stakeholders, particularly the Native American and the archaeological communities, and that a written report concerning this effort be submitted to the Committee and the other state officials mentioned in the preliminary report by September 30, 2002. Furthermore, we strongly urge the Committee to include a recommendation in its final report to Speaker Householder that the Society's report include a written report concerning the Society's efforts to address access and other issues at Moundbuilders State Memorial. We also request that this recommendation be included in the reporting recommendations contained in your report to Speaker Householder, not in the miscellaneous or other category.

We strongly support the recommendation that the State of Ohio develop and implement an abandoned cemetery and unmarked human burial ground preservation program. We urge the Committee to assign this responsibility to the State Historic Preservation Office, and that the State Historic Preservation Officer assemble a group of interested stakeholders including, but not limited to, statewide organizations representing the archaeological, genealogical, historical, and Native American communities, representatives of local and state government officials and law enforcement, and the Advisory Board, to develop this program. We further recommend that you request that the State Historic Preservation Officer submit a written report concerning this program to the Committee by December 31, 2002. We request that you include these recommendations in the preservation recommendations in your report to Speaker Householder, not in the miscellaneous or other category.

Finally, we support the Committee's recommendation that Revised Code section 149.55, the State Registry of Historic Landmarks, be repealed. However, as we testified to on January 16, we also believe that Revised Code section 149.51, the State Registry of Archaeological Landmarks, should be repealed. If done so, section 149-1-02 of the Ohio Administrative Code must be revised accordingly. In the 26 years this program has been operational, not one archaeological site has been listed and the Council considers the program fatally flawed.

Some of the recommendations contained in the Committee's report will require an increased financial commitment by State Government, and some reordering of priorities by the Society and the State Historic Preservation Office. The Council believes that these changes are needed, and Ohio's historical programs and partnerships will benefit from their implementation.

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, the Council thanks you for your attention and giving the Council the opportunity to present testimony concerning the preliminary report. You have done an excellent job, and we look forward to working with you again in the fall. In the meantime, in whatever way we can, we will work with the Society and the State Historic Preservation Office in sustaining and enhancing Ohio's historical programs and partnerships.

 

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