Kaibab National Forest partners with NAU Students

Students work with Forest Service employees to develop options for renovating and preserving historic lookout cabin on Kendrick Peak

NAU students Brooke Anderson, Noah Mills and Jake Washburn inspect the Kendrick Lookout Cabin in October 2015. The students worked with Kaibab National Forest employees to develop proposed options for restoring and preserving the cabin. Photo Kaibab National Forest

NAU students Brooke Anderson, Noah Mills and Jake Washburn inspect the Kendrick Lookout Cabin in October 2015. The students worked with Kaibab National Forest employees to develop proposed options for restoring and preserving the cabin. Photo Kaibab National Forest

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The National Forest System includes 193 million acres of National Forests and grasslands and within those lands has identified 325,000 cultural resource sites. According to forest managers, those cultural resource sites are threatened by insufficient funding, too few staff, vandalism, fire, theft and timber harvesting.

More than 6,000 archaeological and historic sites have been recorded on the Kaibab National Forest. The majority of these sites are associated with Cohonina who occupied the Kaibab between AD 700 and AD 1100. They left stone houses, pottery shards, stone tools, grinding stones and rock art across the forest. Many cultural sites are located on the Kaibab also. They include structures and artifacts from lumber, mining and fire fighting efforts.

With a limited staff to handle the monitoring and restoration of these cultural and archaeological sites, archaeologists and historians have reached out to a variety of volunteer partners to survey archaeological sites, restore rock art, curate artifacts and stabilize historic structures on the Kaibab.

This fall, forest managers reached out to a new partner with Northern Arizona University's Forestry Department. Professor Martha Lee's Wilderness Management class assisted the forest service with two cultural restoration projects on the Kaibab, while students gained some valuable hands-on experience.

"It was a win-win," Lee said. "It's a great example of experiential learning for students. Getting to work on real world projects that are needed."

"It's neat to work with the students," said Kaibab District Archaeologist Neil Weintraub. "Many have grown up in the Williams-Flagstaff area. They can see themselves making a difference in the local community..."

Weintraub, Heritage and Tribal Program Manager Margaret Hangan and Staff Officer Liz Schuppert met with Lee during the summer of 2015 to discuss project ideas for the class. Kaibab managers presented a list of cultural projects that needed attention in designated Wilderness Areas within the Kaibab.

The location of these resources in Wilderness Areas presents a unique challenge to forest managers. The 1964 Wilderness Act determines that these ecosystems would remain untouched from human manipulation, enterprise and mechanized and motorized devices.

Several historic and archaeological sites lie within the Kendrick Peak and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Areas. Forest managers and volunteers survey and monitor these sites but any restoration or stabilization can only be done by nonmechanized methods. This typically requires personnel to carry supplies by horse or mule since cars, ATVs, and helicopters are prohibited in those areas.

"We need to do things that are compatible with the Wilderness Act," Weintraub said.

Two cabins were identified as possible projects during the summer meeting. These included restoration of the Kendrick Lookout Cabin in Kendrick Mountain Wilderness and the Taylor Cabin in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.

Though wild and seemingly untouched, the top of Kendrick Peak is the home of the Kendrick Lookout Cabin, the second oldest lookout tower in the Southwest. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It was built in 1911," Weintraub said. "That was during the time that the forest service was known as the fire service and the plan was to basically put out all the fires. The mindset then was that fire was going to destroy the forest and of course we've learned a lot since then. So this cabin is really a monument to the history of the forest up there and it's one of the few early structures that is left."

Weintraub worked with the Kendrick Lookout Cabin group and hiked to the top of Kendrick Peak with the group of four students in October 2015. The group surveyed the historic cabin and found areas that needed repairs. They found holes in the chinking, leaks in the roof and damage from pack rats.

The students noted the deficiencies and spent time interviewing the public and researching public policies to determine possible actions for the cabin restoration.

"The cabin is really cool in its historic setting," said student Noah Mills. "It doesn't detract from the setting at all. It looks like it belongs there tucked away on the edge of the meadow."

The students attended class twice per week and met with Hangen, Weintraub, Schuppert and Harrison weekly to discuss the project.

"We just brainstormed, or let the students brainstorm, and then we would just throw in our expertise into the mix," Weintraub said. "We just guided them. They really took ownership of the project."

Weintraub said early in the semester he gave a presentation about the history of the cabin and how it was protected during the Pumpkin Fire in 2000. He told them how it became a top priority, along with fire fighter safety, to protect the cabin and its long history.

Students studied the National Historic Preservation Act, the Wilderness Act, the Kaibab National Forest Plan and the Forest Service Manual to understand the regulations and guidelines for restoring cultural sites in the forest.

They created a presentation and proposal that outlined management alternatives for forest supervisors. These included no action, cabin removal, cabin rental, or cabin restoration. Their preferred alternative was a combination of restoration, interpretation and public involvement.

The preferred alternative included addressing short term and long term maintenance issues at the cabin, expansion of interpretive displays at trailhead kiosks, designing a cabin plaque with information, and creating a visitor notebook. They also suggested increased public involvement and education by creating a Friends of Kendrick Cabin group.

"Everyone we interviewed said they love the cabin. It definitely has public value," Mills said.

Weintraub said the Kaibab takes the students recommendations seriously. He said they look at the options the students came up with and evaluate their recommendations.

"A big part of their learning is they know we do take it all pretty seriously," Weintraub said.

Lee said her class has partnered with a variety of agencies, but primarily work with the forest service. Over the past 15 years, her class has worked with the Forest Service, the Park Service, Coconino County Sheriff's Office and Arizona Game and Fish. She said many of their projects focus on educational opportunities such as developing programs for schools.

"One year one of our teams got a statement about Wilderness put in the hunting regulations for game and fish," Lee said. "That was neat because that gets such wide distribution."

"The two criteria for me is that it (the project) has to be a good learning experience for the students and secondly it needs to be something that the forest service needs and wants and will use," Lee said. "I don't want stuff that's just going to sit on the shelf."

Lee said an additional benefit to the students was the mentoring opportunities presented by the Kaibab managers.

"They get to talk about jobs and careers and whatever else they want to," Lee said. "To have the district ranger involved was amazing. Deedee and Liz and some of the archaeology folks were coming to class every week. It is so impressive that they would take the time, especially coming from Williams."

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