UM archaeology program joins DOD in surveying Air Force bases

The Center for Integrated Research on the Environment at the University of Montana recently expanded an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct archaeological inventories on Air Force bases. (Photo courtesy UM)

Missoula Current

The Center for Integrated Research on the Environment at the University of Montana recently expanded an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct archaeological inventories on Air Force bases.

The research will help the bases know whether they have any archaeological sites and where they’re located, enabling them to avoid disturbance during military exercises and other activities that are part of their core mission.

“Doing archaeology on Air Force bases or international guard bases is an exciting opportunity because it provides access to places that archaeologist don’t normally get to go to,” said Doug MacDonald, a professor in UM’s Department of Anthropology and a principal investigator for the Center for Integrated Research.

MacDonald, who has conducted numerous archaeology projects in Yellowstone National Park, says Air Force bases have many similarities to wilderness areas across the country. They’re often untouched, he said, and they’ve never been surveyed by a professional archaeologist.

While the survey’s help the military avoid disturbing cultural sites, scientists also benefit by conducting research and learning about Native American history, military history and European American history, MacDonald said.

“It’s very important that we preserve things, as well as educate the public in regards to our collective past and hope that it helps us all in this day and age to get along trans-culturally,” said Stocky White, a doctoral student in archaeology involved in CIRE projects.

CIRE also provides student-veterans the opportunity to combine their military experience with their educational aspirations. Three veterans are involved in the project, each with a master’s degree in archaeology.

“This is a nice opportunity for them to get experience both in the military and in archaeology, and many of these bases have permanent archaeologists on them, so all of these people are going to have potential work for those bases in the future,” MacDonald said.

In May 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a five-year, $45 million cooperative agreement with UM to study and solve environmental and cultural resource problems across the nation.

Through the agreement, UM also assists the Corps in implementing land and water ecological restoration, as well as maintenance and training for optimal management of public resources.

Together, the two entities work to promote positive ecosystem health, endangered species awareness and the continuing wealth of natural resources on Air Force bases.

The Department of Defense is charged with military land management.