Historic Preservation

Laws concerning Heritage Resources on Federal Lands USDA Forest Service Shawnee National Forest Archaeological sites throughout southern Illinois can provide important insights and knowledge about the past that cannot be gotten elsewhere. The artifacts contained in the sites can help us learn about little known aspects of our history, cultures and peoples not as well represented in current history books. They are the clues left behind by the past inhabitants that can help archaeologists determine who was living at the site, when they were living there and what they were doing. Professional archaeologists depend on finding artifacts in their original location and in association to other artifacts to accurately interpret the story of the past. Removing artifacts from sites destroys the ability of archaeologists to reconstruct the histories and lifeways of the people who once occupied the site.   

Archaeological sites on National Forest System Lands are protected by a number of federal laws, including the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979, and the Secretary of Agriculture’s Regulations. It is a felony to disturb, alter, remove, or damage archaeological sites and objects that are over 100 years old on Federal lands. However, archaeological sites and artifacts are also protected by 36 CFR 261.9 (g): Digging in, excavating, disturbing, injuring, destroying, or in any way damaging prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resources, structure, site, artifact, property; and 36 CFR 261.0 (h): Removing any prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resource, structure, site, artifact, property. Historical and archaeological resources are any structural, architectural, artifactual, or material remains of past human life or activities which are of historical or material remains of past human life or activities which are of historical or archaeological interest and are at least 50 years of age. They also refer to the physical state, location, or context in which the resources are found. In addition, artifacts might be considered under United States Property laws as “abandoned property”as they were deserted by their original owners without hope of recovery or intent of returning them. In the absence of express or statutory title transfer, the common law of finds, the “finders keepers”rule, gives finder title abandoned property. One exception to that rule, however, is that when the abandoned property is embedded in the soil. It belongs to the US Government as the owner of the soil. 

By abiding by these laws and regulations you are helping us Protect Our Common Heritage!

The “Passport-in-Time” Program

The Passport-in-Time Program is a free program open to the public which provides opportunities for people of all ages to participate in historical and archaeological projects as volunteers. In addition, there are many sites of historical interest within the Shawnee NF which are open to the public, such as Millstone Bluff, the Great Salt Springs, Illinois Iron Furnace, Rim Rock Trail, Lincoln Memorial Park, and Kaolin Pond. Many of these sites have interpretive signs on site that explain the significance of the site.  Please enjoy these remnants of times gone-by, walk softly and touch only with your eyes. You can help preserve our history by leaving archaeological sites undisturbed and reporting any looters or evidence of looting activity that you see.  For more information on the importance of archaeological sites or the Passport in Time program, please contact the Forest Archaeologist, Mary R. McCorvie, (618) 253-7114.

The Use of Metal Detectors in the National Forest

Metal detectors on National Forest and other public lands are generally used to look for lost or abandoned items of monetary, historical or collectable value. However, on National Forest lands their use is governed by strict regulations in conformance with federal legislation designed to protect our nation’s heritage as well as other resources. They can be used for searching for treasure trove, locating historical features and artifacts, prospecting for minerals, and searching for coins and lost metal objects.

The term "Treasure Trove" includes money, unmounted gems, precious metal coins, plate, or bullion that has been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovering it later. The search for buried treasure can involve methods that are potentially damaging to forest resources, thus a special-use permit from the Forest Service is required. Each permit request is thoroughly evaluated and permits may not be granted in each case.

Archaeololical Sites 

The use of metal detectors to locate objects of historical or archaeological value is permitted in accordance with the provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979, and the Secretary of Agriculture’s Regulations regarding protection of heritage resources. This activity requires a special-use permit. Permits are available only for legitimate research activities conducted by qualified individuals. Unauthorized use of metal detectors in the search for and collection of historic and archaeological artifacts is a violation of existing regulations.

Mineral Deposits

The use of a metal detector to locate mineral deposits such as gold and silver on National Forest System lands is considered prospecting. In the State of Illinois permits are required for prospecting. For more information on the legal requirements of prospecting permits contact the Forest Headquarters, Lands Department.

Recent Coins/Metal Objects

Searching for coins of recent vintage and small objects having no historical value, as a recreational pursuit, using a hand held metal detector, does not require a special-use permit as long as the use of the equipment is confined to areas which do not possess historic or prehistoric resources.  In some areas this can be difficult to determine.

On the Shawnee National Forest, metal detector enthusiasts are free to explore developed recreation areas such as Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Lake Glendale, but are excluded from areas known historical significance such as the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial is the location of one of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debates and was a gathering place for the Anna-Jonesboro community prior to that date. As such there are artifacts embedded in the ground that may relate to that event.