Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the importance of ceramics in archaeology?

A. Ceramics are among the most valuable types of artifacts that archaeologists find. Many people know that ceramics are often used to determine when archaeological sites were occupied, but they are also used to address an array of other interesting issues. For example, through careful technological and stylistic analyses, ceramics can help us understand the ethnic or social identities of the people who made or used them, the economic networks they participated in, the religious ideologies they subscribed to, and even their ancient political affiliations.

 Q. What is the importance of stone artifacts (lithics) in archaeology?

A. Stone is the most durable artifacts class and can preserve for millions of years. More than 99% of human history is represented by stone artifacts only. For that reason alone, it is important to study them. Moreover, the study of stone artifacts can yield important and relevant information regarding technology, hunting and other food getting strategies, social relations and networks, mobility patterns, and trade networks.

Q. What is the National Historic Preservation Act?

A. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), passed in 1966 (amended 1992), is composed of three major sections: 101, 106 (more on Section 106 below), and 110. Section 101 outlines the creation of each state’s State Historic Preservation Office and state historic plans, Tribal Historic Preservation Offices for federally recognized tribes, and the National Register of Historic Places. Section 110 states that federal agencies must establish procedures for managing and inventorying cultural resources on their lands. The NHPA also exists to directs the Secretary of the Interior of the United States to issue regulations to ensure that significant prehistoric and historic artifacts and associated records are curated in an institution with adequate long-term curatorial capabilities. In Arizona, the primary curation facility is the Arizona State Museum.

Q. What is Section 106?

A. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is often referred to as the Section 106 process. A proposed project must take into account the effect of the undertaking on any district, site, building, structure, or object that is included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register. Many, if not most, development projects must use Section 106 protocols because these types of projects often involve federal lands, permits, and/or funds. Any or all of these criteria make the undertaking subject to the Section 106 process.

Q. What is Section 4(f)?

 A. Section 4(f) refers to the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (amended by the Federal-Aide Highway Act of 1968). Any project involving the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the Secretary of Transportation to take into account the historic significance of sites on public lands, as well as other resources such as public recreation areas, parks, and wildlife refuges, that may be affected by a DOT project. A proposed project must explore all feasible and prudent alternatives to highway design that would affect said cultural resources. As with the National Environmental Policy Act, it should be coordinated with the Section 106 process where possible (to avoid duplication). A Section 4(f) evaluation may be written as a single document, included as a separate chapter of an Environmental Impact Statement, or incorporated into an Environmental Assessment.

Q. Why is environmental planning and compliance necessary?

A. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was created in 1969 to ensure that all branches of the United States government give appropriate consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that would potentially affect the environment.

  Q. What does Section 401 of the Clean Water Act entail?

A. Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act gives states the authority to ensure that federal agencies will not issue permits or licenses to conduct projects that may result in contamination of the waters of the United States. A state or authorized tribe located where the contamination would originate from has the capability to waive the certification requirement or to issue a Section 401 water quality certification verifying compliance with existing water quality requirements.

  Q. What is a Section 404 permit?

A. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act established a program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Examples of these types of activities include but are not limited to dam or levee construction, infrastructure development, and mining projects. Proposed activities are regulated through a permit review process and an individual permit is required for potentially significant impacts.

 Q. What is Environmental Justice and Title VI?

A. On February 11, 1994, an executive order was issued to direct federal agencies to ensure achieving environmental justice as a priority. Along with that executive order, a presidential order was issued in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This order stated that any federal agency providing financial assistance to activities or programs which affect human health or the environment, may not use methods, practices, or criteria that discriminate based on national origin, color, or race.

 Q. What is a Biological Assessment (or Evaluation)?

A. By regulation under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), a Biological Assessment (BA) is prepared for "major construction activities" considered to be federal actions (through federal funding, federal land ownership, federal permitting, etc.). A BA is required if listed species or critical habitat may be present in the “action area” of a project. A Biological Evaluation (BE) is a generic term for all other types of species analyses. Although the ESA does not required preparation of a BA for non-construction activities, if a listed species or critical habitat is likely to be affected, the federal action agency must provide an evaluation on the likely effects of the action. This document is often referred to as a BE. This documentation is used to decide if concurrence with affects is warranted. Generally, the included contents are the same as a BA.

EcoPlan notes that BAs and BEs should not be confused with Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), which may be required for your project. EISs and EAs are designed to provide an analysis on a variety of environmental, cultural, and social resources, and often use different definitions or standards.

Q. Why are endangered species surveys required?

A. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to work to conserve endangered and threatened species and to use their authorities to further the purposes of the ESA. Section 7 of the ESA, called "Interagency Cooperation," directs Federal agencies to ensure the actions they take, including those they fund or authorize, do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species. EcoPlan assists with Section 7 consultation to ensure our clients maintain compliance with the ESA.

 Q. What are Arizona Protected Native Plants?

A. Arizona has more rare and unusual native plants than anywhere in the United States. Many can live for a very long time and cannot be replaced because of their limited distribution and occurrence. For these reasons, most native plants in Arizona are protected by Arizona state law. In general, Arizona protected native plants cannot be removed from any lands without permission of the owner and a permit from the Department of Agriculture. Lessees of State or federal land must obtain specific authorization from the landlord agency to remove protected native plants.

Q. What are noxious invasive plants?

A. The Executive Order 13112, signed by President Clinton on February 3, 1999, requires that a Council of Departments dealing with invasive species be created to prevent the introduction of invasive species and provide for their control and to minimize the economic, ecological, and human health impacts that invasive species cause. Here in our state, most notable are invasive plants that spread easily and can dominate entire land areas. These plants are deemed noxious and their presence can have profound impacts on landscape, wildlife, and livestock and can severely limit native plants’ ability to reestablish. To fight the spread of invasive plants, the Arizona Department of Agriculture has developed a list of regulated, restricted, and prohibited plants that are disadvantageous to our state’s natural and developed regions. Identifying these plants where they occur is the first step to fight and control them.

Q. Does EcoPlan hold a current General Services Administration (GSA) Contract?

A. Yes, EcoPlan has held a GSA contract since 2007. Our current contract number is GS-10F-1047T.