Omaha District Cultural Resources Program partners to preserve the past of public lands

USACE Omaha District
Published Nov. 15, 2022
Paleontological resource approximately two feet found in Lewis and Clark Lake near Yankton, S.D.

Paleontological resource approximately two feet found in Lewis and Clark Lake near Yankton, S.D.

Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, near Yankton, South Dakota

Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, near Yankton, South Dakota

Dam intake at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota.

Dam intake at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota.

Dam intake structure, Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, S.D.

Dam intake structure, Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, S.D.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District owns and operates multiple lakes and reservoirs that provide navigation, flood control, water supply, fish and wildlife, water quality, hydropower, and recreation activities in an area of operation covering 700,000 square miles and 10 states, in the Midwest ‘Plains’ region, of the United States.

This broad expanse of flatland in North America contains a rich amount of non-renewable and sensitive resources, including historical properties, and paleontological resources. The Omaha District’s Cultural Resource Program team, Tribal representatives and state officials work together to uphold laws that protect and preserve historical resources found on public lands.

Federal laws such as the Antiquities Act of 1906, the National Historic Protection Act of 1966, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 are pillars of the USACE Cultural Resources Program. These laws ensure that USACE works with Tribal representatives, state officials, and individuals to foster partnership conditions to identify, protect, and preserve cultural historic and prehistoric resources discovered on public lands throughout the District’s area of operation. 

“I am most proud of our Programmatic Agreement for the Operation and Management of the Main Stem Dam System,” Sandra V. Barnum, RPA, district archeologist, USACE, Omaha District, said. “It was developed in partnership with Tribes, state agencies, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the National Trust.”

Additionally, the laws provide processes for enforcement agencies to take punitive measures for looting, vandalism and theft of the land’s natural resources.  These federal laws protect resources, and violation of these laws can include civil and criminal penalties for removing, disturbing, looting, or vandalizing archeological and paleontological sites. U.S. Courts can impose fines and, or imprisonment. 

Visitors of public lands can choose to be partners in preserving the past. In August 2022, during a fishing tournament at Lewis and Clark Lake near Yankton, South Dakota,  a Nebraska fisherman from Elkhorn discovered a fossil and contacted a USACE park ranger to report the finding.  The fisherman demonstrated how to support preservation efforts. Together, USACE and the fisherman located and retrieved the fossil.

“Part of my job as a USACE Park Ranger is to protect the natural resources at the Gavins Point Project,” David Mines, park ranger, Gavins Point Dam Project, USACE, Omaha District, said. “That can include anything from patrolling project lands, to educating visitors about our natural resources.”

This fossil is thought to date between 75 and 100 million years old and is part of a predatory fish family called Ichthyodectidae.  At some future date, it will be on display in the Gavins Point Visitor Center for people to learn more about this exciting discovery and about our past.

Julie Jacobsen, Omaha District Cultural Resources program manager, said that their mission is to protect these items, and respect the history and cultures of Tribal people who first lived along the Missouri River. 

“Our Tribal partners work hard to continue their ancestor’s way of life, everyone can help by respecting them and following the rules when they visit federal lands,” she added.

When visiting public lands you can help protect the past and natural resources by following a couple of simple rules:

  • Leave It Be – Visitors are asked to leave fossils where they find them.  Artifacts and fossils are not souvenirs. Please do not pick up, move, throw, place in a pocket or bag, or try any fossils.
  • Document the Location – When discoveries are made, visitors should make note of the exact location, take photos of where the item was found to get the landmark location, and do not post the discovery on social platforms.
  •  Alert an Official - Contact an official, or USACE park ranger at: 866-667-9473. Share a description and the location of the item with officials only.

The Omaha District Cultural Resources Program plays a vital role in supporting the USACE mission to serve the nation. If you are interested in preservation, archeology, paleontology, tribal relations, curation, history and or public education, please contact the Cultural Resources Program:



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