The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “blocked” 14 archaeologists from attending the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) annual meeting, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The SAA conference is one of the largest gatherings of archaeologists in the Western Hemisphere. At least 17 BLM archaeologists were slated to attend the event and applied for the agency to cover the cost of travel.
When parties of seven or more apply to attend national conferences, the BLM requires a review of each application to ensure taxpayer funds are responsibly spent. The BLM approved three of 17 applications. The rest, if they wanted to attend, would have to pay for the trip out of pocket or be sponsored, BLM Spokeswoman Amber Cargile told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“After reviewing the potential travel and other costs associated with attending the Society for American Archaeology’s national conference, the BLM authorized attendance by three BLM archaeologists,” Cargile told TheDCNF in a statement. “The decision was made after reviewing the conference topics and agenda, and we sent the people who could best represent the BLM.”
The original party of nearly 20 BLM archaeologists were supposed to lead a symposium, “Tough Issues in Land Management Archaeology.” The symposium was canceled, however, due to a lack of federal scientists, according to WaPo.
When asked by TheDCNF, the SAA declined to say why the symposium was canceled.
Fourteen BLM archaeologists were “denied permission” to attend the conference and share their professional experience developing land use plans and conserving archaeological resources on federal land, SAA President Susan Chandler lamented, according to a statement on the SAA website.
“Archaeologists from around the world were deprived of a symposium filled with valuable information about the tough issues facing land-managing agencies, and from learning about BLM’s innovative solutions to handling conflicts with development, using data to inform future land management decisions, and working with Native American communities to protect their extensive cultural heritage from looting and other threats,” Chandler said.
“Preserving the U.S. archaeological record is a charge entrusted to all Americans, often via our government agencies,” the SAA president added. “BLM archaeologists handle large-scale, complex issues involving multiple stakeholders, and we were sorry to lose the chance to learn from their experience.”
The BLM never received an offer from the SAA to cover the expenses of the scientists in order to put on the symposium, Cargile confirmed to TheDCNF.
The SAA declined to answer when asked if the organization had offered to pay for the lodging and travel expenses of the 14 BLM scientists whose costs would not be covered by taxpayers.
The environmentalist Center for Western Priorities (CWP) took the opportunity to call out the BLM and President Donald Trump’s administration for its focus on energy development.
“This entire incident reeks of scientific interference to advance the administration’s energy-at-all-costs agenda,” CWP Media Director Aaron Weiss told WaPo.
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