Coconino National Forest volunteer earns historic preservation award

Photo: Spence Gustav portrait
Spence Gustav of Sedona, on duty at the Palatki Heritage site. Gustav was awarded the 2019 Governors Archaeology Advisory Commission Award for his contributions to the Coconino National Forest Heritage Program. Photo courtesy of Red Rock Ranger District Friends of the Forest.

ARIZONA – Spence Gustav of Sedona earned the 2019 Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission award for avocational archaeologist for his contributions to the Coconino National Forest Heritage Program. In the past, Gustav served as the President of the Red Rock Ranger District Friends of the Forest. Currently, he continues his work as an active public servant and volunteer.

Retirement hasn’t stopped or slowed down Gustav. His work as a petroleum geologist previously had him stationed all over the world. Today, he shares his expertise with the Red Rock Ranger District. He organized a team of 25 additional Friends of the Forest volunteers to meticulously document the indigenous pictographs, petroglyphs and cliff dwellings in the Sedona area by using updated electronic techniques not available when previous mapping projects started more than 20 years ago. This team’s work provided the Forest Service with revised, science-based documentation of these fragile heritage sites. Gustav’s team is currently working on previously known sites, recorded before Geographic Information Systems technology was available, and updating their GIS records.

Additionally, Gustav organized a project to scan all the Coconino Heritage Program’s legacy photos and slides. This data set consists of approximately 100,000 images, including historic photographs that predate the forest's 1906 establishment and more current images shot during archaeological surveys beginning in 1974.   

In the future, Gustav and his team have plans to develop an interpretive program which allows physically challenged visitors to experience these sites using 3-D technology.

Gustav holds a bachelor’s degree in archaeology and a master’s degree in geology. Two local USDA Forest Service archaeologists, Ted Neff and Peter Pilles, nominated Gustav for this award.