Archaeological Resource Management for Local Governments

By integrating archaeological resource management into planning and development approval processes, municipalities and regional districts and local government partners play a role in the preservation of B.C.'s past.

Local governments and their partners are ideally situated to identify developments that may threaten protected archaeological sites and notify developers of the need to plan for and manage potential damage to these sites.

Archaeological Data & Site Records

Archaeological site records are available to local governments. Archaeological site records consist of the site form and maps for each protected archaeological site in the provincial archaeological site inventory database.

Protecting Archaeological Sites

These tools and approaches can help local governments manage protected archaeological sites within their jurisdiction.

Archaeological Overview Assessment

Archaeological overview assessment studies produce mapping of an entire jurisdiction and identify areas with significant potential to contain archaeological sites. The archaeology branch can assist local governments developing these studies.

Official Community Plans

Local governments can integrate archaeological values into their official community plans. When archaeological site management is included in official community plans landowners and developers better understand their responsibilities surrounding provincially protected archaeological sites. 

Given the rapid pace of development in the province, protected archaeological sites are being accidentally damaged with increasing frequency. Accidental damage is usually due to a lack of knowledge about archaeological sites and the legislation that protects them. By raising the profile of archaeological site management within official community plans, local governments can alert people to archaeological issues at the earliest stages of development planning.

Awareness helps to avoid or reduce damage to archaeological sites in the future. Early knowledge of archaeological issues also reduces the potential for increased development costs and delays, negative press, and conflict within the community.

The Archaeology Branch recommends that official community plans contain a separate section pertaining to archaeological resource management, or that archaeology be addressed in a distinct subsection within the heritage section.

Planning & Development Approval Process

The early identification of overlaps between development and archaeological sites helps to protect archaeological resources, reduce costs associated with development delays and maintain positive relations with First Nations.

The costs of managing unplanned impacts can be high if a developer must stop construction while required archaeological impact management studies are completed. Poor relations with the developer, negative media coverage, and community conflict can also result if an archaeological site is damaged during development. There is also a possibility of charges under the Heritage Conservation Act

 Impact on archaeological sites can be difficult to manage since:

  • Sites are often buried and hard to identify
  • The locations of known sites are not widely publicized, as this can lead to looting of these fragile places
  • The many protected sites are unrecorded or undiscovered

Despite these challenges, costs and impact on sites are minimized when builders know about archaeological site concerns early in the planning process.

Taking steps such as revising development plans to ‘work around’ an archaeological site or using less intrusive building techniques may be more cost effective than carrying out archaeological studies to mitigate the impact of development.

A standardized notification letter gives local governments the ability to notify developers of archaeological concerns.

Information for Property Owners

Planning ahead before renovating or building can help ensure private and commercial property owners associated costs are kept to a minimum and damage to archaeological site is reduced or avoided.

Archaeological Site Permits

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage Conservation Act. Damage to these sites must be avoided or managed by those who plan to demolish or build on their property, develop land, or otherwise alter the landscape. Local governments are also responsible for avoiding or mitigating any impact on protected sites when building infrastructure and buildings, or working on the land.

Local Government Infrastructure Projects

Water, wastewater and other infrastructure construction has the potential to disturb protected archaeological sites. Identifying projects that may overlap with archaeological sites and preparing an approach for managing development-related impacts helps local governments lower infrastructure development costs.