• 02/27/2019 4:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    At the end of last summer, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced their decision to waive the National Historic Preservation Act and other federal laws in order to expedite construction of border fencing in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. As a part of the Coalition for American Heritage, ACRA sent a letter to CBP opposing this decision and urging officials to reconsider.

    This effort to protect sensitive cultural resources that would be potentially endangered by the waiving of such laws is one of several made by ACRA in the latter half of 2018. A few weeks ago, we received a response, which we now want to share with all of you!

    The ACRA lobbying team received the following email in response to the Coalition letter. Notably, CBP commits to conducting environmental surveys to identify sensitive areas that have the potential to be impacted - including "biological and cultural resources on land within the border wall alignment." Read the full text of the email below, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for updates on this issue (and many more!).

    American Cultural Resources Association,

    Your feedback is appreciated, and we understand your concerns regarding the waiver of environmental laws in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector and the potential impacts to historical and cultural resources. Your feedback, along with information about how it was incorporated into U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s environmental planning, will be detailed in a report that will be made public once all stakeholder comments have been reviewed and analyzed.

    Regarding your comments related to the waiver of environmental laws, CBP is conducting environmental surveys of the project areas, coordinating and consulting with resource agencies and other stakeholders, evaluating possible environmental impacts from the projects, and identifying mitigation measures to avoid or minimize impacts. While the waiver eliminates CBP’s obligation to comply with certain environmental laws for this project, CBP remains committed to environmental stewardship. In doing so, CBP creates an Environmental Stewardship Plan which identifies areas of potential impacts and establishes construction best management practices that avoid or minimize impacts to the environment during construction. Additionally, CBP intends to continue outreach and consultation with stakeholders in an effort to capture and address their concerns.

    Regarding your comments related to surveys, CBP is working with experts in the field to conduct surveys that will identify sensitive environmental areas that have the potential to be impacted during construction. The scope of these surveys will include biological and cultural resources on land within the border wall alignment.

    For additional information, please use the following link to frequently asked questions (FAQs): https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/border-wall/border-wall-system-frequently-asked-questions.

    Thank you again for your feedback.


    Wall Program Manager Office Directorate Team

  • 02/26/2019 4:52 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team
    This post is authored by Brandon M. Gabler, PhD, RPA, Regional Director and Vice President of Operations, and Alison Haller, MS, Director of Marketing and Communications, with Commonwealth Heritage Group.

    Finding relevant content and project examples to share on social media channels is a struggle. We all acknowledge the benefits of creating and sharing relevant, interesting, and timely social media content…like this blog! Social media posts constitute relatively low-cost and high-visibility marketing when done well. Social media is also a great venue for short, pithy updates about a realm of resources in which the public is generally interested (cool bridges and archaeological sites are easier to sell to the public than wetlands and overpass inspections). But to get the benefits, firms must overcome—or at least keep pace with—multiple challenges. Below are thoughts about the perceived top three challenges: 1) social media channel selection, 2) developing content, and 3) negotiating approvals to post content.

    The challenges start with the social media outlets themselves: there are so many from which to choose, each has its own audience and purpose, and each has a lifecycle (Google just terminated its own social media channel, Google+; see also the rise and fall of MySpace). Commonwealth heavily uses three social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Of the three, Facebook—known primarily as a business-to-consumer (B2C) platform—claims the vast majority of our interaction with the public. One recent study stated that 42% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers admit that Facebook (with over 2 billion users) is the most effective B2B social networking platform for their companies because it is heavily customer-satisfaction centric, cost-effective, provides the chance for companies to interact with existing and potential customers, and more.

    For most ACRA member firms, most sales or leads are generated outside of social media (also known as “offline sales”), meaning that the main goal with social media is to build brand awareness by driving traffic to the firms’ websites and generating direct contacts with their teams. We want the people (the C in B2C) who work for other businesses (the second B in B2B: project proponents, designers, constructors, agencies, etc.) to know about our company’s capabilities so they think of us the next time they need a heritage management consultant. One ACRA member firm’s website data tells us that of the three social media channels they use, Facebook is the most useful in driving that goal with over 20% of website traffic coming from a Facebook click.

    The bigger problem is developing and sharing relevant and interesting content. A firm’s goal is to boost brand awareness and drive traffic through raw and authentic content. The most exciting thing about a heritage management firm is the suite of projects in our portfolio, and therefore the best way to generate buzz is to share content about those projects! However, once channels are chosen, two primary challenges remain.

    First, there are limited resources (human, financial, temporal) to develop and post content because there are strains on technical staff to produce required deliverables, let alone content worthy of sharing on social media. Staff are commonly stretched thin because of balancing multiple simultaneous projects, the need to transition to new projects immediately, and trying to find something interesting and/or relevant to share when it may be just another negative survey.

    Second, there are strains on management and administrative staff to manage the business and legal aspects of our contract requirements, along with an associated web of approvals and clearances to post newsworthy project-related information via social media. Occasionally, contracts contain explicit clauses about confidentiality, social media sharing, or what constitutes dissemination of work. More often, nothing is explicit in the contract. Yet as business operators, project and client managers, and ethical professionals, we know we need to exercise caution. Things like sensitive archaeological data and the perception by our clients that we’ve over-shared are tough to manage—the latter of which can seriously risk our ability for repeat business (just because the contract isn’t explicit doesn’t mean they would rather we stay quiet!). The time and effort associated with reaching out to clients to ask for explicit permission and sharing a rough draft of the post is often met with either no response or a rejection. Other times, clients perceive it as their product (“We’re paying for it!”), so they’d rather not have us market the material, at least until the final report is on file in a state office or in some cases not even filed (e.g., private-sector due-diligence work).

    So, what are strategies you use to manage these challenges? Are there ways to create vague social media posts that are relevant, but protect your company from breaking written or unwritten rules? Do you provide staff with administrative or overhead time to develop social media content at the conclusion of projects? Do you have a method for requesting permission from clients that seems to work more often than not? We’d love to hear from you!

  • 02/22/2019 9:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The appropriations bill passed by Congress last week helped stave off another government shutdown. This ensured that CRM professionals across the country are able to continue to working on important federal projects without interruption or delayed payment, experiences reported by many firms at the beginning of the year. However, that is not the only positive development associated with the bill!

    Another win for the CRM industry in this legislation is an increase to the allocations for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). This represents a strong commitment by Congress to preservation efforts across the country. ACRA has been working diligently with its partners in the Coalition for American Heritage to ensure that Congress understands the value of the heritage programs that our member firms work on daily, and this increase shows that those efforts have made a difference.

    You can read more about the funding increase on the Coalition's website, which includes allocated amounts for specific programs and how this budget compares to what was requested by the administration. Let us know your thoughts on the increased appropriations in the comments below!

  • 02/21/2019 9:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post is sponsored by the Center for Applied Isotope Studies.

    The Radiocarbon & Archaeology 9th International Symposium will take place in Athens, Georgia, USA, at the Classic Center in downtown Athens from Monday, May 20 through Friday, May 24, 2019.

    The symposium will showcase current archaeological research that employs radiocarbon, as well as recent developments in the radiocarbon technique. Special thematic sessions will be held in honor of the 70th Anniversary of Libby’s publication of the application of 14C for age determination.

    The Symposium will include a full range of academic sessions, invited lectures, social events, and field trips within and beyond Athens.

    The Symposium organizers have extended the deadline for abstract submissions associated with the conference sessions. The deadline is now February 25 - so you need to hurry!

    The full list of sessions is available here - please consult the session list  to find the right fit for your presentation. Organizers have made it easy for you to submit your abstract with the creation of an online portal.

    Don't miss this opportunity to showcase your work - submit your abstracts by February 25.

  • 02/20/2019 2:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Whether you are negotiating with a potential client, your project team, or embarking on the Section 106 consultation process, CRM success requires agreement and collaboration with other people. The first webinar in ACRA's 2019 series will help CRM practitioners of all levels potentially improve their business outcomes through the art of negotiation.

    Join us on March 21, 2019 at 2:00 pm Eastern to gain more insight into this skill that is vital to the business world (and beyond!). The Art of the Negotiation and Conflict Management will equip you with strategies and frameworks that will help you become a better negotiator.

    Expert provider Anna Schneider of Heritage Business International holds both an M.A. in anthropology and an M.B.A. in business administration. Anna is passionate about using this unique degree combination to bring both archaeological expertise and business know-how to the CRM industry.

    One thing to note: this webinar will only be offered live - meaning you won't be able to access the recording in ACRA Webinars on Demand - and spots are limited, so you need to register TODAY to save your virtual spot.

    Whether you are new to the industry or consider negotiation an integral part of your daily tasks, The Art of Negotiation and Conflict Management will improve your skill base to grow your business. Register today!

  • 02/15/2019 4:14 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Earlier today, we sent out our February monthly member update. That version was missing a link in the section about fostering collaboration between CRM and academia. We have created an updated version with the link to the full communication strategy. ACRA members can access this update here - we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused!

  • 02/14/2019 4:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    ACRA is pleased to support the African American Burial Grounds Network Act, which was introduced in Congress yesterday by Rep. Don McEachin (D-VA) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC). This legislation is consistent with our commitment to providing accurate information about historic resources to communities, developers and government officials.

    The African American Burial Grounds Network Act would:

    • Create a voluntary, nationwide database of historic burial grounds, with the consent of the property owner, that relate to the historic African-American experience;
    • Provide technical assistance to local public, private, state and local partners to research, survey, identify, record, preserve, evaluate, and interpret these burial grounds;
    • Establish educational materials for community members, local groups, and schools about African-American burial grounds; and
    • Make available grants for local groups to research, survey, identify, record, and aid in the preservation of sites within the Network.

    African-American burial grounds are an integral component of the heritage of the United States. Creating and maintaining a network of African-American burial grounds will help communities preserve local history while better informing development decisions and community planning. ACRA is proud to lend its name in support of this legislation.

    What can you do? To build support for the bill, please contact your Member of Congress and ask him/her to cosponsor the African American Burial Grounds Network Act.

  • 02/13/2019 4:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post is authored by Jo Reese, VP/Senior Archaeologist with Archaeological Investigations Northwest, Inc. (AINW) in Portland, Oregon.

    This year, Archaeological Investigations Northwest, Inc., (AINW) offered to have Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as our first ever volunteer service day, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., in keeping with his words:

    "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?”

    AINW offered to support volunteer efforts for this day by paying for the holiday, if the employee participated for at least 4 to 6 hours as a volunteer in a group activity that was aligned with the theme of Doing for Others.

    AINW also collaborated with a local historical society to help them with tasks at their museum, the Zimmerman Historical House.

    • The Zimmerman House Museum is a beautiful turn-of-the-century farmhouse that is down the street from AINW’s headquarters! In keeping with their commitment to help preserve Portland area’s important historical landmarks, several AINW employees descended on the farmhouse to help with landscaping on the museum grounds, and to help with linen folding, inventorying, and other tasks within the museum. The Zimmerman House Museum is managed by the East County Historical Organization (ECHO), who were grateful for the assistance of 14 AINW staff.

    AINW employees participated in several other activities:

    • Indian Creek Natural Area Habitat Restoration

    • Habitat for Humanity ReStore
    • Nadaka Nature Park, for Friends of Trees
    • Oregon Food Bank
    • Hands On Greater Portland with SOLVE

    AINW’s first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service holiday was a resounding success! To learn more of AINW’s participation, visit our website, and look under AINW Provides on our home page.

    Does your firm participate any unique benefits for its employees? Let us know in the comments!

  • 02/12/2019 6:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Do you have a topic that you think would be perfect for a presentation to fellow CRMers? Is there a discussion you think the industry should be having? If so, we want to know!

    The Call for Sessions for the 2019 ACRA Conference is open!

    The ACRA Annual Meeting is a prime venue to exchange ideas and meet new colleagues. It is through member participation that our conference program can expand each year, bringing new ideas and evoking teamwork as we strive to make our industry stronger. Only with your ideas can we craft a well-rounded program that provides value to attendees!

    Using the conference theme as a general guide, sessions can reflect a variety of CRM topics, including business operations, reaching out to the academy, continued education, technological advances, advocacy, and best practices. Sessions can involve an individual speaker, a suite of presenters, or a panel (maximum of four panelists); they can also revolve around a presentation or an interactive activity. Each session will last between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on the topic.

    Click here to learn more about the submission requirements, and hurry - proposals are due March 15!

  • 02/08/2019 10:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Readers can now find relevant news items compiled all in one place! In our CRM Firms in the News series, we feature recent mentions of ACRA member firms and their projects across the country. Was your firm recently featured in a news article or on social media? Send it to us to be included in our next volume of the series!

    • Dovetail Cultural Resource Group is giving back to their local community by establishing a scholarship for students at the University of Mary Washington. Read more about this opportunity for historic preservation students in the Free Lance-Star.
    • Heritage Research Associates Inc. was a part of the efforts to preserve a site in Oregon believed to have been visited by Meriwether Lewis & William Clark. Artifacts found, including tools and stone bowl fragments, suggest that the site is the location of a Chinookan village detailed in journals of the famed explorers. Read more in this piece from the Lewiston Tribune!
    • A person's trash tells a lot about their life, and this is even true for garbage buried for over a century! Staff from Alpine Archaeology had the chance to examine long-buried refuse from the household of Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a wealthy railroad magnate and founder of Colorado Springs. Read more about how these finds are helping historians learn more about the turn-of-the-century life in area in this piece from the Colorado Sun and the video below!

    DiscoverCOS: Archaeological Dig from City of Colorado Springs on Vimeo.

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