Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance is expanding a stewardship program to protect archaeological sites and recently hired a new assistant director.
The nonprofit is a friends group that supports Canyons of the Ancients National Monument by organizing education programs and volunteer efforts to monitor remote ruins and wilderness study areas.
The Canyons Alliance now has 56 volunteer site stewards after six more people stepped up this year, said Executive Director Diane McBride. They monitor 96 sites, up from 90 last year, and logged more than 1,100 hours of volunteer time this year on monument sites in Montezuma and Dolores counties.
“We had a successful year and want to continue expand the program to also help monitor sites on Tres Rios BLM land,” McBride said.
Trained stewards regularly monitor sites for damage, watch for looting, take photos and record any issue such as vandalism. This year, they recorded minor natural deterioration at 14 sites and reported minor vandalism at three sites, including one in Sand Canyon.
Stewards reported seven events that did not affect site integrity, including vehicles in closed areas, construction of unauthorized cairns, fallen trees, social trails and trash.
New this year are site stewards monitoring activity at the Cross Canyon, Cahone and Squaw-Papoose Wilderness Study Areas within the monument borders.
Shaine Gans was recently hired as the new assistant director for the Alliance. Gans has a background in anthropology and archaeology and has worked at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum on curation and interpretation. She has a master’s degree in museology from the University of Washington.
“She is a real go-getter and has a solid background with archaeology and public lands,” McBride said.
Gans and McBride are working to improve the Canyons Alliance’s education programing by providing funding for six teachers to give archaeology instruction and tours to local students. Schools in Montezuma County have been involved in the program, and the Alliance is reaching out to Dolores County schools as well.
They recently received a $10,000 education grant from the Community Resource Center. The funding supports Alliance programs to give students tours of the monument and its museum.