B.C. Heritage Conservation Act
it all about?
1960, the province responded to public concern over the loss
of precious and non-renewable archaeological resources by passing
the Archaeological and
Historic Sites Protection Act (AHSPA).
That legislation provided automatic protection for archaeological
sites on Crown land and, where designated, protection for such
sites on private land.
In 1977, the Heritage Conservation Act replaced the AHSPA, introducing new heritage
programs such as the BC Heritage Trust, and extending the legislated
protection of archaeological sites on private
land, without requiring formal designation.
in Canada have similar legislation for protecting heritage resources,
along with most countries worldwide.
What is an “archaeological site”?
archaeological site is a location where there is evidence
of past human activity. We can apply archaeological analysis
to these sites in order to learn about past events and our
- Archaeological sites can include
things such as ancient stone carvings, remains of ancient
houses and campsites, shell middens and even culturally modified
sites represent only one component of a range of heritage
resources found throughout the province, including things
like historic buildings, shipwrecks, heritage trails, etc.
- In British Columbia, these sites
provide information about aboriginal life during the last
12,000 years, and non-aboriginal life for the past 200 years.
Why should we protect archaeological sites?
- Archaeological sites represent
our only link to over 98% of the province’s human history.
- They are a precious non-renewable
- Archaeological sites and their
artifacts are important provincial resources similar to mineral
deposits, arable land, forests, fish and wildlife.
How are archaeological sites determined?
- In most instances, archaeologists
discover and record information on sites and their locations,
and pass that information on to the Archaeology Branch.
- Archaeologists require a permit
from the Archaeology Branch in order to conduct this kind
of work, so no government-authorized archaeological work can
proceed on private property without the landowner’s knowledge.
- Some sites – such as those with
petroglyphs -- may be easily determined by non-archaeologists.
- Information submitted to the
Archaeology Branch is entered into the Provincial Heritage
Inventory. The Inventory is a recording system that depends on submitted
information. It also includes information on many other kinds
of heritage sites.
- Archaeology Branch staff often
receive informal information on possible sites from interested
members of the public, who generally will not have an authorized
work permit. They also sometimes get reports from archaeologists
who are using existing information to make projections on
site boundaries. That’s how information can be received and
become part of the Heritage Inventory without the express
knowledge of the property owner.
4. How many archaeological sites are there?
- The provincial heritage registry
currently has just over 21,000 records of sites or objects
that would fall into the category of “archaeological site”.
the registry is composed of records submitted by people outside
the ministry, some information - such as legal descriptions
- has not been consistently included. That’s why it’s difficult
to say exactly how many of these sites may be situated on
have lived in BC for about 12,000 years, and the vast majority
of archaeological sites are located below the surface of the
ground. These factors make it extremely difficult to pin down
an accurate figure as to the number of sites in the province.
5. How can I find out if there is a known archaeological
site on my property?
with local government. Municipalities and Regional District
offices have information on the locations of known archaeological
sites within their jurisdiction. These offices are usually
the first stop when obtaining a building permit or development
the archaeology branch. In-person inquiries are welcome
during business hours, property owners are also encouraged
to access information via the Branch’s Web site. Phone or
fax inquiries are also welcome.
owners and prospective buyers of a property can complete a
B.C. Provincial Heritage Register
Data Request Form or
contact the branch at 250-356-0882.
on the complexity of the request, the Archaeology Branch will
respond as quickly as possible.
6. Why isn’t information on archaeological sites
available on land titles?
the surface making this information available on land titles
seems like an easy answer – but it’s not that simple.
vast majority of records within the provincial heritage registry
do not contain enough information to identify individual private
are currently exploring the feasibility of including archaeological
information on land titles.
What do I do if there is a known archaeological site
on my property
and I would like to make property improvements
need to contact the Archaeology Branch: 250-356-0882.
Archaeology Branch will be able to provide you with advice
and guidance on how to proceed in a fashion that will avoid
or minimize damage to the archaeological site.
advice may include a recommendation to engage a professional
archaeologist to conduct an assessment of your property.
Is it true my property value will plummet if an
archaeological site is identified
on my property?
There is no hard evidence that having an archaeological site
on your property will significantly reduce its value. In fact
in many cases, properties have been developed and/or sold
with the full knowledge of the presence of an archaeological
an archaeological site on your property may restrict some
development options, but no more so than if there were a salmon
bearing stream on the property, or if the lot fell under a
restrictive zoning bylaw.
Will I be fined if I accidentally come across a potential
archaeological site while building?
purpose of the Heritage
Conservation Act is to encourage and facilitate the protection
and conservation of our heritage, not to prosecute property
can only be levied by a court, following formal, legal prosecution.
This would only take place under circumstances suggesting
serious willful damage or looting of a known heritage site,
not the accidental disturbance of a site by a private landowner.
What is an archaeological impact assessment?
archaeological impact assessment, like an environmental impact
assessment, is a process where a trained professional looks
at the archaeological site and your development plans.
professional archaeologist can determine what impact the proposed
renovations or improvements will have on the archaeological
impact assessment report and recommendations will provide
the Archaeology Branch with the necessary information to work
with you in order to complete your project.
Why does a property owner or developer bear the cost
of an impact assessment?
sites have remained intact for hundreds and even thousands
of years, and can remain intact unless they’re disturbed.
Development has the potential to disturb and damage these
sites – which is something we want to avoid.
province’s ‘developer pays’ policy is commonly applied when
it comes to managing the impact of large commercial or industrial
property development on various cultural and natural resources.
The policy also applies to private landowners who are developing
their property – for instance, putting an addition on their
house, or putting in a swimming pool.
are costs associated with hiring an archaeologist if an assessment
and plan for managing the impact on potential archaeological
deposits or human burials is necessary. However, by taking
early action, landowners can minimize further costs down the
is rare that development will be prohibited because of the
presence of an archaeological site, however, some modifications
to development plans may be recommended.
a site is significant enough that its preservation is considered
more important than a proposed development, the province will
work with the property owner to find a reasonable compromise,
and make sure any financial impact is kept to a minimum.
What if I think I’ve discovered an archaeological
should contact the Archaeology Branch: 250-356-0882.
could also contact the archaeology or anthropology department
of your local University or College for advice on what you
information on archaeologists who may offer assessment services,
you can contact the B.C.
Association of Professional Consulting Archaeologists,
or try the yellow pages of your local telephone directory.
Where can I find more information?
on how to obtain information from the heritage inventory or
general information about archaeological resource management
is available on this Web site,
or you can contact the branch at 250-356-0882.